Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Have you ever tasted a Whitstable oyster?"

Tipping the Velvet: A NovelAfter reading three Sarah Waters novels, I'm now able to start ranking them.  The Little Stranger is my favorite so far, followed by Fingersmith.  In third place (and likely to stay at the bottom) is Tipping the Velvet.  It wasn't the strong sexuality of the novel that bothered me but rather the plot lines that were based on ridiculous coincidences.

Nancy Astley is the daughter of an oyster-man in Kent.  She works with her family at their restaurant/business and spends her weekends in Canterbury at the theatre, watching the variety acts and taking a break from her mundane life.  However, she doesn't realize just how unsatisfied she is until the day that Kitty Butler takes the stage dressed as a young man.  Nancy's immediate attraction to Kitty is confusing but undeniable and eventually her life takes a much different direction than she ever imagined.

This novel wasn't as compelling as Waters' other ones.  While I was reading it, I was interested but each time I set it down, I wasn't dying to pick it back up.  The main reason was probably that I didn't find Nancy to be very likable.  She makes a string of ridiculous decisions that just get more and more far-fetched as the story progresses.  And, of course, since she turns out to be a lesbian, almost every woman she meets also turns out to be a lesbian.  It seems rather unlikely that two-thirds of Victorian women were actually gay but that's about how frequently they turn up in this book.  Not only that but they all fall head-over-heels for Miss "somewhat pretty and not very bright" Nancy.  Still, I will say that Waters again won me over with her meticulous period detail and her high quality prose.  This book is quite racy and if you're in the mood for rather a lot of steam and can suspend your disbelief, this is an entertaining read.  If you want to read the best that Waters has to offer, try The Little Stranger instead.

P.S., I hate oysters,

Support our site and buy Tipping the Velvet on Amazon or find it at your local library.  We bought our own copy.


  1. I haven't read Tipping yet, but I've read all her others and I'd rank them like this:

    (from favorite to least)

    The Night Watch
    The Little Stranger

  2. I hate oysters too -- maybe that's why I wasn't able to get into this book.

    So far I've only read Fingersmith and just loved it. I do want to read more Sarah Waters. I'll probably start with The LIttle Stranger.

  3. I would say Fingersmith was my favorite, then Little Stranger. I have yet to read her others but boy is she a strong writer!

  4. This certainly has the raciest cover!

    I really loved Fingersmith, but that is the only one I've read so far. I've got The Little Stranger to try next.

  5. I? Hated Florence. I HATED HER. HATE HER. She is so self-righteous and I hate her. I was rooting for her to drown rather than her and Nan end up together. #teethgnash (Was that even her name? I hated her so much I may have forgotten her name.)

    Yeah, this is my least favorite of Waters's novels too. Because of horrible Florence.

  6. I haven't read this one yet because I found the TV mini Series really boring! I cant remember much about it at all.

    The only other ones Ive read are Fingersmith and The Little Stranger which I enjoyed.

  7. The Fingersmith miniseries adaptation is brilliant. It's quite faithful to the book, but of course the book is still better. I watched the series first and still loved the book even though I knew the plot.

  8. Lenore - Interesting that you liked The Little Stranger the least! I think this shows though that there's a Waters book for everyone.

    Karen - I was grossed out every time they mentioned eating oysters. ;)

    Michelle - A very strong writer. I'm hopeful that we will have many more books from her.

    Jenners - Very racy and not related to the actual story at all. They are never nude on stage. :)

    Jenny - Yeah, Florence was incredibly self-righteous and judgmental. I didn't care that she and Nan got together though because I didn't like Nan that much either!

    Jessica - I haven't watched the mini-series yet but want to try it.

    Karen - I did watch the Fingersmith miniseries and liked it for the most part except I couldn't get into their casting choice for Richard Rivers because I had recently seen something else where that actor was the sweetest guy. I couldn't make the switch to have him be so bad!

  9. I haven't read Tipping the Velvet, it's the one book of Sarah Waters that doesn't appeal to me. But I have read and really enjoyed Affinity, Fingersmith and The Little Stranger. I think you'd like Affinity.

    The one books of Waters I could not get into was The Night Watch - I just didn't like any of the characters at the start.

  10. That is so funny--I have read the same three Waters novels. The Little Stranger was by far my least favorite. Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith are tied for first, as I loved them both.

  11. Tracy - I'll admit that it didn't really appeal to me either but I knew that I would want to read all of her works eventually so I picked it up now so that I still had two more left that I anticipated liking. Strange, I know. :) Next up will probably be The Night Watch. I'll see if I like it more than you did. I'm saving Affinity for last.

    Lola - Funny how we have read the same ones but totally rank them differently!

  12. So, literature as a meal, Kristen, where you make yourself finish a main course you're not so fond of so that you can enjoy your favourite dessert afterwards!
    'Though this be madness, yet there is method in't' :)