'Intelligent, witty and stylish' INDEPEDENT
'Everyone's appetites will be satisfied' ELLE MAGAZINE
'Waters is an author to cherish' GUARDIAN
Celebrating five decades of the feminist publisher, each of the Five Gold Reads represents an iconic moment in Virago's history, from the 1970s to today.
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 . . .
Sarah Waters's debut, a delicious reimagining of late-Victorian life, chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable. Her fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler.
When Kitty's career takes a glittering turn, Nan accompanies her to London as her dresser and secret lover, and, soon after after, dons trousers herself to join the act. But this is only beginning of Nan's adventures, in a novel that follows her through heartbreak, recovery and steamy sexual education, and sees her finally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.
'It's a rare pleasure to discover a writer as assured as Waters' SUNDAY TIMES
'A first-class storyteller' EVENING STANDARD
'Sarah Waters, quite simply, is one of our greatest writers' SUNDAY EXPRESS
'Waters' persistent picking apart of class is fascinating' OBSERVER
With a title that's a euphemism for cunnilingus and a plot awash with graphic lesbian sex, this lush tale fearlessly and feverishly exposes the political, social and sexual subversions of Victorian-era gender-benders: sapphists, libertines and passing women. Set in 1890s London against a backdrop of music halls and socialist demonstrations, Waters's debut (published to acclaim in England) is an engrossing story of a "tommish" woman battered and buoyed by the mores of the times. At 18, Nancy Astley is a fishmonger in coastal Whitstable, working with her sister and parents in the family oyster parlour. Smitten by male impersonator Kitty Butler, Nancy attends every show at the Canterbury Palace until the star notices her. A stunned Nancy finds herself Kitty's companion and dresser, and sexual tension keeps the pages turning as she becomes first Kitty's sweetheart, then her partner ("two lovely girls in trousers, instead of one!") in a wildly successful stage act. Kitty's shame over her sexual preference sends her into marriage to their manager, Walter Bliss, propelling devastated Nancy into a series of erotic excursions and a struggle for survival, first passing as a young man and hustling, then as wealthy widow Diana Lethaby's kept "tart," finally as the housekeeper for union organizer Florence Banner. Waters is a masterful storyteller, tantalizing the reader as Nancy endures melancholy squalor, betrayals, the lustful motives of swindling gay-girls and imperious ladies. The circumstances by which Nancy finally finds true love are unpredictable and moving. Amid the gentlemen trolling Piccadilly Circus for trysts with "renter" boys and the wealthy female guests of the Cavendish Clubs "Sapphists Only" parties, Nancy's search for love and identity is a raucous, passionate adventure, and a rare, thrilling read.
Although I thought the story dragged a little in places it was, nonetheless, well worth reading. The images brought to life by the reader were amazing. It was as if, by turns, you could smell the greasepaint, feel the fever of the crowds, sink into the tawdriness of life on the streets, sink into the opulence of Diana's home & be thoroughly immersed in the squalor of the East End. Well worth the read.
Tipping the velvet
What an amazing book! What twists! What turns! A must read for all lesbians, and those that want a story of a different kind of love.
An excellent tale of the things that get in the way of love. A beautiful, sometimes somber, fiction of what lesbian love looked like in the very early days.