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Tipping the Velvet

Narrated by: Juanita McMahon
Length: 19 hrs and 4 mins
Categories: Fiction, Gay & Lesbian
4.5 out of 5 stars (483 ratings)

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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 members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • T
  • 14-10-14

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.

9 people found this helpful

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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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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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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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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

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I loved it

This story is so wonderful - so real and heartfelt. Be wary if you are not broad minded.
The story follows Nancy, a young, inexperienced girl who was brought up by her close and caring family in Kent. We hear about her experiences as a stage performer, a working 'boy', a lady's lover and a friendless girl. Her experiences are gritty, raw and a true reflection of life for a lower-class lesbian in old time Britain.
Juanita McMahon is perfectly cast to read this book with her amazing ability to accurately interpret characters.
I couldn’t put it down and I will certainly be coming back to it in the future

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Fantastic from beginning to end.

Struggled to stop listening. Every free moment in the last week has been spent listening and I am sorry it had to end. I'll definitely be reading more Sarah Waters.

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  • L.M Juniper
  • 12-11-18

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.