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Tipping the Velvetby Sarah Waters
Monday, September 22, 2014 07:30 PM
Powell's City of Books on Burnside, Portland, OR
It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, life is about to be transformed as an impoverished widow, Mrs. Wray, and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers. With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard, a young couple of the "clerk class," the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances's life. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction. A triumph of psychological acuity, historical recreation, and emotional force, The Paying Guests (Riverhead) is Waters's finest work yet. Waters will be joined in conversation by Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water.
Synopses & Reviews
A classic picaresque, Tipping the Velvet chronicles the adventures of Nancy King, who begins life as an oyster girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease Paint Avenue," Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover. Before long, Nan dons trousers herself, and the two male impersonators become a celebrated pair of the stage. But when Kitty betrays her, a solitary, heartbroken Nan reinvents herself as a butch roue — a sort of Moll Flanders in drag — navigating her way through London's seamy and flourishing gay demimonde as she pursues her thrilling and varied sexual education.
"Tipping the Velvet is a luscious turn-of-the-century English tale of lesbians, lust, kept girls, Socialists, oyster-shuckers and of course...love. It's a feast for the imagination, and just when we think we know where the story is going, Sarah Waters takes us in a more seductive and tantalizing direction." Bust
"This is the lesbian novel we've all been waiting for — a sexy, funny, sometimes deeply moving romp through the Victorian underworld, saturated with period detail and almost completely free of activist harangue." Peter Kurth, Salon
"Readers of all sexes and orientations should identify with this gutsy hero as she learns who she is and how to love." Newsday
"A rather formidable debut." Kirkus Reviews
Erotic and absorbing Written with starling power.”—The New York Times Book Review
Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty's dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.
"Lavishly crammed with the songs, smells, and costumes of late Victorian England" (The Daily Telegraph), this delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease Paint Avenue, " Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and, soon after, dons trousers herself and joins the act.
In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of butch roue to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual educationa sort of Moll Flanders in dragfinally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.
Drawing comparison to the work of Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters's novel is a feast for the sensesan erotic, lushly detailed historical novel that bursts with life and dazzlingly casts the turn of the century in a different light.
About the Author
Sarah Waters is the author of Tipping the Velvet, a New York Times Notable Book; Affinity, which won her the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award; Fingersmith and The Night Watch, both of which were shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize; and The Little Stranger, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and a New York Times Notable Book. She has also been named one of Granta's best young British novelists. She lives in London.
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