My goodness. After talking it up so heroically here like I was some kind of fantastic reading machine, I've finally read Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Why did it take me so long? I'm shamed to say it's not because I've been reading other great books, but simply that life got in the way for a while. I find it so hard to keep all of the interests, obsessions, and duties juggling successfully without letting something drop for a bit. So there you have it.
At any rate, once I got started I could hardly stop. I had been doing a lot of reading, historical fiction mostly, about Victorian London when I picked up this book way back in the summer. Love the time frame, love the location. And I've always been a big fan of the coming-of-age genre. Tipping the Velvet combines each of those things I love, with a twist. It's about Nancy Astley, a girl from a seaside oyster-town who forms a friendship and then falls in love with a music hall "masher." Miss Kitty Butler is a male-impersonator, a pretty boy in elegant clothes who sings and charms each music hall audience, a cross-dressing curiosity in 1880's England. The story follows Nancy with a strong narrative voice as she makes her way through London's music halls, high society, the streets of Piccadilly and the London slums. As her story unravels, spiraling downward at each turn, Nancy discovers the complexities of the human condition. She ultimately gains a true sense of herself, her sexuality and her place as a lesbian in the world around her.
Tipping the Velvet is such a fantastic read that I just bought Sarah Waters Fingersmith, but I probably won't get back to you on that one until Halloween. In the meantime I'll be checking out the BBC's version, now out on DVD.