Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fifty Shades of Nancy

As you may be aware, this spring everyone has been reading Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.  So far, I've avoided the temptation, but many of my friends have given in and read it.  My husband, for one, wishes that I would give it a try.  From what I've heard, Fifty Shades is titillating, intense, and not that well written, but I haven't heard of anyone who quit reading.

Over a year ago, I bought Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.  I read The Little Stranger by Waters, really liked it, and wanted to read more that she had written.  However, in the spirit of judging a book by it's cover, I was a little leery.  I knew that Tipping involved lesbian characters, and that there were two naked women on the cover of my copy of the book, but that's about all.  So, with some trepidation, I started reading.

Tipping is the story of Nancy Astley, who starts off as a girl in her late teens.  She has a boyfriend, lives with her parents, and works with them in their oyster parlour, at the end of the 19th century.  Nancy likes to go to shows at a nearby theatre, and is intrigued when she sees a woman performer dressed as a man, who is known as Kitty Butler.  Nancy can't stay away from the performances, and soon finds herself moving to London as part of Kitty's inner circle.  Through this part of the story, I would describe it as a story of forbidden love, which even the most meek and prudish reader would appreciate.

Soon Nancy finds herself on harder times, and in more illicit relationships.  Like the female lead in Fifty Shades, Nancy stumbles into a relationship with a dominant, wealthy person, only for Nancy this person is a woman.  It is here that Nancy learns tricks worthy of Christian Grey himself.  However, the formula at work in Tipping is more like 80% story and character development and 20% sex, whereas Fifty Shades, (I have heard), uses the reverse proportions.  

If you, like me, are hesitant to read the Fifty Shades trilogy because you've heard the writing is poor, or because, frankly, you don't want the other moms at the library seeing you read it, you may find Tipping the Velvet to be a good alternative.  The New York Times named Tipping as a Notable Book of the Year in 1999, so you can be assured that it is a good book.  Additionally, being a work of historical fiction, focused on lesbians in the last two decades of the 19th century, may make Tipping appealing to those who like British historical fiction in general, but are growing sick of kings and queens.

That's one more down for the Off the Shelf Challenge - 11 more to go.

Next Up:  11/22/63 by Stephen King

Still Listening to:  My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk


  1. That is why you get 50 shades on the Kindle.

  2. Kim - It's about time! Glad you made it to my blog :)


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