Tipping the Velvet

  • by Sarah Waters
  • Narrated by Juanita McMahon
  • 19 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Did not disappoint!

If I could give 4.5 stars I would have...

The last dozen or so books I have read have all been lovely books that left me totally disappointed with the ending (either just woefully uneventful or not really an ending at all). Tipping the Velvet, thankfully, left me feeling a lot of things but disappointment was not one of them.

I have typically really struggled finishing time-period novels. They are just not my thing. More often than not, I can feel the slight dissonance between when the book was written and the time period when it was set--whether it's a language use issue, historical [in]accuracy issue, or something I can't put my finger on that just doesn't read as 'true', I typically have had a hard time finishing them. I don't know if me being pretty unfamiliar with the language use (and life in general) in 1890's England made me more accepting of this time-period novel, but I absolutely loved the setting. I cannot recall a single moment in which I felt like there was a disconnect--or a moment where I was very clearly aware that the book was written just a few years ago.

Author, Sarah Waters creates such vivid descriptions of the world in which Nancy lives that, as cliche as it sounds, I was really transported in time. For some people, I'm sure this could become a bit of a slow read because of the time spent describing things, but for me, it totally enhanced the story. It almost added a level of authenticity for me because I am not familiar with Victorian era England, the descriptions helped me build a picture that I did not already have in my head.

When I start feeling frustrated, angry, sad, and hopeful while reading, I know it's a good book and this one had me all over the map. There were moments of wanting to yell at Nan to do (or not do) something and moments of wanting so badly for things to go right for her. I found myself wishing I could read faster while still enjoying the richness of the story just so I could find out what happens. To this point, I will likely re-read this book since I know there were moments where the wanting of the story made me rush through while missing some of the linguistic artistry.

As to the story itself, there were certainly lots of twists and turns with highs and lows (and basement lows). It kept me guessing as to what was coming next (even if there was a rhythm to the madness)... just when I thought it was never going to get better for nan, something happened to pull her up from the depths. While it is certainly a lesbian love story with quite a bit of lesbian sex, it is also absolutely a love story and a coming of age story that I think many people can relate to. Regardless of sexuality, what person hasn't had their heart broken by someone they loved (particularly as a teenager/young adult) or found themselves in relationships that were initially enjoyable but were never made for the 'long term'.
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- TENA

Journey of Self Discovery

If you could sum up Tipping the Velvet in three words, what would they be?

Outrageous Self Discovery


What other book might you compare Tipping the Velvet to and why?

It is difficult to think of a decent comparison as Waters combined elements of historical fiction, epic self discovery, and audacious lesbian romance that I have not seen combined. It is like Emma Donoghue's Life Mask combined with modern brash romantic affairs.


Which character – as performed by Juanita McMahon – was your favorite?

Nan Astley (the main character).


Who was the most memorable character of Tipping the Velvet and why?

Nan Astley is the main character of this story. I seemed to share a love/hate relationship with her. There were moments that made me want to cheer, and others that made me want to wring her neck. She was by no means perfect which made her character all the more believable despite the outrageous situations in which she often found herself.


Any additional comments?

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I am a fan of Sarah Waters in general, but find this is one of my favorites. The historical flare of the stage mixed with coming of age/self discovery and the modern style romance made this book both fantastical and believable.

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- Nina

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-22-2014
  • Publisher: Recorded Books