Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters

Tipping the Velvet is one of the books on my Reading Challenge 2021. I have heard and read so many good things about Sarah Waters so far that I did not doubt that I would admire this book. When Korean director Park Chan-wook created the masterpiece The Handmaiden, inspired by the author’s book Fingersmith, I immediately bought Tipping the Velvet. However, I did not want to leave this first book of the author halfway nor sit down and read it for hours.


Tipping the Velvet takes place in the 1890s and chronicles the life of a young girl named Nancy. Leaving her quiet life in the small seaside town of Whitstable, Nancy begins a more turbulent life in London than she expected. Because Nancy falls in love with Kitty Butler, a cross-dressing singer; she knows that she is gay. After that, we witness what it was like to be a lesbian in Victorian London. But of course, we also read about Nancy’s growing up story and all the strange events and characters that came with it.

Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters

Tipping the Velvet and gay life in Victorian London

Since Sarah Waters did her PhD on gay life and pornography in Victorian England, the book’s contents were highly detailed and educational. It never occurred to me that there could be a lesbian bar in London in the Victorian era, and its name could be The Man in the Boat. The author found the title of the book while writing her doctoral research. (Look for the meaning of these if you have no idea like I did.)

The book is almost 500 pages, but it felt much longer for me. As I said, I could not leave the book halfway, nor did I want to sit down and read it for hours. When I finally finished it, the ending disappointed me. It seems as if all those events that had grown like an avalanche were resolved in one afternoon. Still, I found a reason not to quit the book, and I’m sure I will find a reason to read another Sarah Waters book. I suggest you read an LGBTQ + author as soon as possible as well. Enjoy!

Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters

Tipping the Velvet

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.

Sarah Waters

Sarah Ann Waters OBE is a Welsh novelist. She is best known for her novels set in Victorian society. And featuring lesbian protagonists, such as Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Reading Challenge 2021

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