I’ve not been doing much writing over the last few months which has at least meant that I’ve been able to catch up on some of my reading.

I’ve had Tipping the Velvet on my list of books I want to read for ages and now I’ve finally got round to it. There’s an Afterward by the author, Sarah Waters, where she complains that “like many first novels by inexperienced authors, it is baggy and over written.” I’m nervous about disagreeing with her so much – she wrote it, so you’d think she’d know – but this is just wrong. I loved this book on so many levels but the first thing to grab me, from the very first paragraph, was the sheer wonder of the writing. Sarah Waters can summon up a place, a feeling or a person with apparently effortless prose. And that’s before we get to the story.

According to Waters herself, it’s a romp. It’s also, of course an exploration and celebration of lesbian history and gloriously, obscenely, wonderfully filthy.

Besides the sex, there is lovingly indulgent praise of the joys of the Whitstable oyster, a brilliant evocation of the music hall of the 1890s, an exploration of East End life and the birth pangs of socialism and, ultimately, [SPOILER] a surrender to romantic love and the joys of domesticity.

It’s one of those wonderful books that is widely and lavishly prised and which turns out to be even better than its reputation.

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