I have said some highly unpopular things here in the past, and the old Done Read has seen its fair share of angry comments (many of which can be found, not surprisingly, here). But I am about to say something that will be INCREDIBLY unpopular – and not just with Teams Edward and Jacob, or a certain author’s mom – and then I am going to duck.
I did not love Tipping the Velvet the way I wanted to love Tipping the Velvet.
I will now commence backpedalling and qualifying and explaining myself. So, I read Fingersmith first, and it was excellent and the writing was spot-on and the romance was sweet and real and heartbreaking and it also holyshitblewmymind.
Tipping the Velvet was likewise excellent, and the writing was spot-on and the romance(s) were sweet and real and HEARTBREAKING WITH ALL-CAPS but it failed to collapse the universe on itself. And I get that that is an unreasonable expectation. If Oceans 12 has taught us nothing, it is that high expectations can queer a deal like nobody’s business.
And Tipping the Velvet was her first book, right? Right! It is a debut of epic proportions! It is smart and funny and ALL ABOUT 19th-CENTURY LESBIANS!! And I don’t care HOW progressive and forward-thinking we say we are, writing a book with very little in the way of plot BESIDES girlationships is decidedly ballsy (even if completely lacking in…er…balls).
So, Tipping the Velvet is all about 19th-century lesbians. Particularly ONE 19th-century lesbian named Nancy who starts off all innocent-like working at her family’s oyster-parlour (*wink*) and then one day realizes that she, like Gavin DeGraw, is In Love With A Girl. Yikes!
Luckily, the girl is of similar persuasion and they have a touching, fresh-love-in-the-springtime stint but you know it is going to go sour, both because it is early on in the book and S.Wat’s love is never easy, AND because there is all of this ‘I should have remembered this, later’ business that gives you the queasy uneasies.
And then things go tits up, and Nancy doesn’t shower for, like, three months. Girl, I FEEL YOU! I also do not suffer break-ups well. And then she hits upon a coping strategy that involves dressing like a dude and wandering the streets and who’s to say whether this is more or less healthy than eating a Party Pack of KFC?
Anyramble, this boy-about-town get-up lands her in yet another relationship, only instead of being endearing and sweet, this one is a debauch! Leather is involved.
And I’m feeling a bit Wikipedia here, so I’m going to cut off the plot-sumz and spool directly into raaaaving. Tipping the Velvet is GREAT! And I know, this contradicts what I said at first, but it was only a disappointment when stacked up against Fingersmith. It is raunchy and romping. Prepare to have your heart broken no fewer than eleventy times.