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Book Review : Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Posted on 23 January 2009 by ana_a

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I have to say that my exposure to lesbian fiction is limited to a little over a dozen lesbian authors. But two shinning stars that pop up in my all time favorite list are – Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters (maybe it is something about the dreary British weather that brings the best out of lesbian fiction?).  Where reading Winterson’s works is like thumbing through a shopping mall’s plastic poster portfolio of cheap Disney knockoffs prints and finding Picasso’s original artwork, reading Sarah Waters’ works is like finding a full-blown oasis complete with lesbian egrets while stumbling through a dry hot desert. To that effect, this review is on her first published book – Tipping the Velvet. To date, Sarah Waters has written four books: Affinity(Affinity is the first book I re-read immediately after finishing because the twist in the book was that jarring and unexpected), NightWatch, Fingersmith. I believe three of them having been made to feature films – Affinity(2008), Fingersmith(2005), Tipping the Velvet (2002).  I have to admit with Tipping the Velvet, I watched the movie first before reading the novel.  The movies was so good I felt like I didn’t need to read the novel. But, I finally caved in and purchased the novel after reading all her other novels. I have to say I was not disappointed with my meager investment.  

Her writing vividly brings out characters, their emotions and their environment. Tipping the Velvet follows Nan King, a young protagonist through her journey of self-discover. Her relationships with Kitty, Diana and Florie is written in such lush detail, I feel like writing a letter of complaint to the producers of the movie for not depicting Nan for the drool-inducing butch that she was in the book.  While there are many memorable moments in the book, my favorite is when Diana related a story of the beggar and djinn to Nan the morning after their first liason. The djinn/Diana gave the beggar/Nan the choice of living in ordinary comfort for 70 years or live in pleasure for 500 days. Guess which the beggar and Nan picked? I have to admit even now, I run the same question through my head sometimes when making life decisions.  

I don’t want to give a way too much of the storyline as I strongly recommend you run to the store right now to buy all of Sarah Waters’ books. If you can only buy one book because you are such a cheapskate, get Tipping the Velvet if you like some eroticism in your lesbian fiction or Affinity if you want to get a good twist in your reading. 

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