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Publisher's Summary

'Piercing the shadows of the naked stage was a single shaft of rosy limelight, and in the centre of this was a girl: the most marvellous girl - I knew it at once! - that I had ever seen.'

A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance, Tipping the Velvet follows the glittering career of Nan King - oyster girl turned music-hall star turned rent boy turned East End 'tom'.

©1998 Sarah Waters (P)1998 W F Howes Ltd

Critic Reviews

"An unstoppable read, a sexy and picaresque romp through the lesbian and queer demi-monde of the roaring Nineties. Imagine Jeanette Winterson on a good day collaborating with Judith Butler to pen a Sapphic Moll Flanders. It's gorgeous" ( Independent on Sunday)
"She is an extremely confident writer, combining precise, sensuous descriptions with irony and wit. This is a lively, gutsy, highly readable debut" ( Observer)

What listeners say about Tipping the Velvet

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  • Overall
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Marvelous, truly magical

I have almost read all of sarah waters work and so far tipping the velvet remains the most original and beautiful. Also the most skillfully written. I truly recommend it.

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  • ann
  • 05-05-2016

Marvelous.

brilliantly written, you do not want to miss out on this experience. now that it's finished I'll be going to chapter 1 to listen eagerly again.

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My favourite Sarah Waters

I love all her books but think this is my favourite - I will miss the characters as it has been such a lovely journey with them and fascinating to get an idea of life as the turn of 20th century approached.

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Love love love.

the narrator, perfectly portrayed every character.
completed within days of starting.
I will have to read it again soon not to miss the characters too much.

the book is slightly different to the series.
the ending I feel is much better.
kitty and her rose. *flushes*

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  • L.M Juniper
  • 12-11-2018

Entertaining

I remember reading this years and years ago, and I remember loving it. I had forgotten however how whiny the main protagonist is. And selfish. It is of course part for her story arc, but it does grate on my nerves when I listen to it again. The writing however is outstanding. It's so vivid I can imagine every single scene as if I was there. The sex, or as we call it in the fanfic world, smut, is good. Almost on par with some of the raunchier fics I've read. And that's saying a lot. Extra plus for having an inevitable, but satisfying ending. Whiny protagonist or not, this is still a very entertaining and good book.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • OliviaM
  • 19-05-2020

good, but spoiled by an insensitive choice

It started off a little slow, but it's a really good book. A lot of twists and turns. A complaint, and a heads-up for any black readers, one of the rich characters in the book calls the only black character the n word about 3/4 of the way through. She isn't admonished for it, and it isn't addressed at all. The whole time though, the protagonist is exclaiming, kind of scandalised, that this character is black too. I obviously found that pretty uncomfortable, and given the book was published in 1998, totally unnecessary and pointless as well. I know the book's set in 1890, a whole century later, and so much has happened in terms of civil rights that it's pretty disappointing that the author would be insensitive enough to just fling a slur like that in. It doesn't make it more authentic, it simply makes the author appear insensitive, and as a black queer person literally just trying to read some good books, I have to say, with all due respect, what the fuck. There are much better and more respectful ways to address racial diversity in your book than that, whether it's set in the 19th century or not. I've not seen anybody mention this, but it most definitely bears mentioning. It marred what was otherwise a really interesting and engaging reading experience.

7 people found this helpful

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  • T
  • 14-10-2014

Victorian London brought to exuberant life

1888 – the eye-opening journey of an innocent teenage girl from the seaside village of Whitstable to smoky, sleazy, sensuous and bawdy London. Her crush on a performer at the local Music Hall takes her from a family making a traditional living from oysters into an exciting but scary world of the stage. The title of the book gives a clue to one aspect of this cautionary tale – it’s apparently a Victorian term for cunnilingus. This caused a stir when first published in 1998, but the book has many other dimensions and is a thoroughly absorbing view of life and love in the Music Halls of the time. Waters’ fast-flowing writing, beautifully delivered by Juanita McMahon, brings an unfamiliar, shadowy world to exuberant life. An extraordinary debut novel, very self-assured and great fun.
P.S. I am irritated to see that Audible has labelled this and Waters’ other titles as “Gay and Lesbian.” This narrow classification belies the mainstream appeal of a modern classic.

13 people found this helpful

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  • getleyartist
  • 15-06-2015

Beautifully written.

I just love the way Sarah Waters writes. I got this as I really enjoyed the fingersmith and it did not disappoint. The language of the time is so authenticity written it's like stepping back in time. It gives a valuable insight to society in London in that era. I loved hearing about all the old music halls many of which just don't exist now. It was read really nicely by Juanita McMahon too.

5 people found this helpful

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  • peter
  • 18-12-2014

A slow start but in the end a tremendous read

Would you consider the audio edition of Tipping the Velvet to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version

What did you like best about this story?

The story becomes fascinating and is very well told. All the main characters are really well drawn and believable. Their moral dilemmas and choices are ones that ring true. The juxtaposition of a private lesbian life and the late Victorian public life of the city makes for a richness of of narrative and imagery that is constantly engaging. It is sort of like Dickens with a modern touch. However the first few chapters need a bit of persevering with.

Have you listened to any of Juanita McMahon’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I haven't listened to any others.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

For me the story provoked quite a range of feelings and thoughts. That is the main reason I liked it.

Any additional comments?

I would recommend it as being a very good story that is well written and well read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • gemma
  • 23-04-2015

All time favourite!

I could read or listen to this book over and over and never tire, every time it's new to me.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Miss Denise Hague
  • 30-12-2014

Brilliant.

Couldn't stop listening to it. I'd watched the tv drama years ago and loved it then. so when i saw the book i knew i had to have it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • miss
  • 06-03-2015

Well written, excellent plot.

Keeps your attention throughout. Much preferred this to Affinity, which was the last Sarah Waters book that I read.

Definitely recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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  • dreamer
  • 30-11-2014

My first introduction to Sarah Waters

If you could sum up Tipping the Velvet in three words, what would they be?

Unexpected, amazing, dark

What other book might you compare Tipping the Velvet to, and why?

The Paying Guests, also by Sarah Waters

Have you listened to any of Juanita McMahon’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Yes, I love her voice, even when I don't care for the story. In this case both the voice and the story were wonderful.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Impossible, too long for that.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-11-2020

Deliciously Sapphic tale of self discovery

Having seen the miniseries I was keen to see how the original compared. I was not disappointed! Ideal choice of reader for a charming and saucy tale of queer self discovery and heartbreak

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  • Angela McLellan
  • 09-10-2020

Found the whole story rather boring

I struggled to finish this book and found the story rather dull. Also it seemed quite unrealistic, the victoriana era crawling with lesbians who weren't afraid to come out, it seems they were just everywhere!

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