Monday, January 30, 2006

On My Nightstand

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.


rebecca said...

I read this one a few months back -- loved it! I'm just getting into Amy Tan's latest (Saving Fish From Drowning)right now.

jojo* said...

I love hearing about what others are reading. When I was an English major I got kind of turned off by books--having to read what my profs told me I had to read. Bah. Nice having a choice now. Thanks for the book review. :)

Alicia said...

I'm sorry, but if you pick up Fingersmith, just for a second, you will not be able to put it down and we won't see you until you're done. And do not read anything about it or talk to anyone (about it -- you can talk to other people about, like, dinner, etc., if you must) until you're done. Just trust me. I'm jealous that you are reading this for the first time!