TIPPING THE VELVET by Sarah Waters
This is a helluva lot darker read than I expected it to be. And while it’s still a very well-written, well-thought out book, at times it’s a bit rocky. This was Waters’ first novel and despite the success that it is, I am certainly more appreciative of her later works. Still, as a Waters’ fan, this is not a novel to be missed.
Tipping the Velvet reads mostly like a coming-of-age story and that’s what might have tripped me up the most. Both The Little Stranger and Fingersmith read as mysteries, completely gripping page-turners but Tipping the Velvet is a slow-burner in the old-fashioned sense. This is a book where you really have to attach yourself to the characters to be interested. The story itself doesn’t hold a lot of comfort if you do not like our protagonist, Nancy. And it certainly took me a while to connect with Nancy (Nan).
I don’t know why it took so long for me to connect with Nan except that I was coming from a high that was The Luminaries, but by the end of this book, I really liked her. She is quite a complex character but bearing through those tough times when I had question the expectancy of her survival, I realized she has to deal with a lot of shit. Admittedly, how she deals with her kin is a little troubling but seeing as how heartbroken she was in the beginning, I kind of understand her pain.
My favorite characters in the book, no doubt, would be Florence and Ralph. Though I do realize that Ralph doesn’t really have much of a role, I just thought it was unbelievably encouraging of him to support Flo through all her decisions. I briefly wondered whether he was gay or not but either way, he’s just one of the few nicer characters that didn’t make me dubious over his intentions. Kitty, on the other hand, I never cared for from the beginning. At first I thought perhaps I was just being grumpy but, well, I wasn’t exactly wrong so no, I was not in the wrong as she really did turn out to be the bitch I thought she might be.
There are some really rough parts in this novel that did make a little bit more uncomfortable than I would’ve preferred. While there are some disturbing scenes to experience in Fingersmith too, some of the sexual content of this book is a little too out of my comfort zone. I’m used to Chick-Lit and even Erotica where the sex is supposed to arouse you (though most of the time it just amuses me) but in Tipping the Velvet, it made me squirm like I never have before. Waters’ certainly knows how to write some sexy scenes but given Nan’s position in some places, it was not easy to bear witness to these things.
I did feel like everything wraps a little too nicely in the end but at the same time, I am not going to complain terribly about it. It was a good, rich plot with interesting characters and as always, Waters is the queen of historical fiction. (It’s just a really nice coincidence that she writes about lesbians too.)
Rating – ★★★★☆