Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters


This book was one of a number that were recommended to me as opposed to coming off the NY Times best seller list. When I chose this one I didn't realize quite what I was getting into. It looked at first glance to be historical fiction, but upon reading the cover blurbs I discovered that it was billed as lesbian erotica. Not something I've ever read before, but the point is to broaden my horizons, so I plunged right in.

            This was very good historical fiction as well as being a sweet love story, once the love story finally got started. The first part of the book, where Nancy Astley discovers her sexual preference and falls in love for the first time with a male impersonator named Kitty, is excellent. The colors and scents are very vivid. Nancy's determination to keep her feelings to herself rather than risk losing her first love is believable. As is her discovery that Kitty feels the same about her. Kitty's later betrayal is heart wrenching.

            The middle section of the book was hard to read. Not because it was badly written. On the contrary, it made the horrible way the rich and powerful in 1890's London treated the less fortunate very clear. Nancy's experiences during that time were just depressing. At the end of that section of the story Nancy has been turned out into the London streets in winter with no coat, no money, not even having been allowed to bring her personal possessions with her.

            In the third part of the book, Nancy turns in desperation to a girl she met only once over a year earlier. After fainting on the doorstep, she is taken in by Florence and her brother. They agree to let her stay on to take care of the house and the foundling they have also taken in. Nancy slowly gets over Kitty and begins to develop feelings for Florence. She finally comes to the realization that life is neither as bad nor as good as she might have believed.

            Eventually, Florence begins to return Nancy's feelings and they start a life together.


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