Review: Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters

028 - Tipping the Velvet

Rating – 5*

I was having a bit of a reading slump towards the end of April, so I decided it was the perfect time to have a reread. I haven’t reread a book in ages even though I have a pile of books which I want to get around to rereading it isn’t something I do a lot. Anyway, when deciding what to reread, for me, this was an easy choice.

Tipping the Velvet has always been a book that I enjoyed, but it is definitely one I enjoyed more on this third read than I ever did before. When I read it initially I must have been about 14 or 15 and a lot of the nuances, and even the plot, went over my head. I was young, naive, not quite in touch with my own sexuality yet and while the book was eye opening, I don’t think I fully grasped the magnitude of it (or even the profound affect it had on me at the time). It wasn’t until I reread it when I was around 18 or 19 that I probably understood more of it, that I realised what this book actually made me realise about myself – it was more eyeopening the second time than the first. Now, on this third read, I am looking at it through completely different lenses and I love it so much more than I did the two previous reads.

The main character in this is Nancy – or Nan – and we follow her over the course of several years of her life. At the start she works in her family business, shelling oysters in Kent and becomes entranced by a performer at the theatre – Kitty Butler. Kitty’s act is that of going on stage dressed as a man, and Nan finds herself going back night after night just to see Kitty. From here, Nan’s life takes an interesting turn down to the theatreland of London – she has ups and downs but every event she lives through shapes her for the next and I absolutely adore that aspect of her character development. The person she is at the end of this book is such a reach from the girl she was at the start, and you know every step of what got her there and I love that. All loose ends are tied up in the last chapter – anything left unresolved is very neatly resolved, it is a little cliche how it all works out but, frankly, I don’t give a damn.

Honestly, this is one of the best books I’ve read. It’s only rereading it now, at this point in my life, that I realise how profoundly impacting it has been on me over the years. Yes, I probably do have some emotional connection to it but that is most definitely one of the best things about rereading a book, remembering the feelings and thoughts you had on previous reads but also finding new things, finding that new connection.

I love this book, I urge anyone to read this book. It’s beautiful, it’s historical, it’s just damn fantastic. I can’t remember the last time I lost myself in a book like this – I did actually read it in two sittings (just a few days apart) and I laid up until 1am to finish it. That hasn’t happened for so long, and it’s made me so excited about reading again. May, I feel, is going to be a good month!

Review: The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

thepayingguestsSo, while I haven’t reviewed any Sarah Waters’ books on here she is by far one of my favourite authors and this book is definitely one of my favourite of hers that I have read. My favourite will always be Tipping the Velvet but I really loved the different time period and dynamic explored in The Paying Guests.

Anyway, The Paying Guests starts as our protagonist Frances and her mother have to take in lodgers – or paying guests – as Frances’ father has died and there are bills that need to be paid. So, in move Leonard and Lilian Barber, a young bohemian couple who seem very nice indeed. However, all is not as it seems with this young couple and as the novel progresses we see that not everything is sunshine and roses.

As you can expect with Waters, there are lesbian themes, there is romance and love doesn’t run a smooth path! But this novel felt different, somehow. I really can’t put my finger on what it was about this, but the story just resonated with me more. Sarah Waters is honestly one of the best storytellers there is. Her novels may not be the most elaborate literary masterpieces, but they are compelling reads that are just so finely woven that you feel you’re there. I read 400 pages of this in an afternoon, I just couldn’t put this down!

The turn it took was somewhat predictable, the aftermath is also a little predictable but… this was just such a good book. My only disappointment is that when I turned the final page I wanted there to be just a little more. I wanted a more rounded conclusion to it all!

I’d seriously recommend this is one for someone who has maybe already explored some of her work, but equally I’d suggest it for someone who wants to step in to her world.

This book wasn’t without its faults but it was a damn good read and one that, while I may not reread any time soon, will definitely stick with me. Ultimately I’m giving this a 4/5!