Publisher: Riverhead Trade
“Lavishly crammed with the songs, smells, and costumes of late Victorian England” (The Daily Telegraph), this delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on “Grease Paint Avenue, ” Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and, soon after, dons trousers herself and joins the act.
In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of butch roue to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual education—a sort of Moll Flanders in drag—finally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.
Drawing comparison to the work of Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters’s novel is a feast for the senses—an erotic, lushly detailed historical novel that bursts with life and dazzlingly casts the turn of the century in a different light.
[Originally posted on Amazon 2/24/04]
This is the second of Ms. Waters’ books I read. The tale takes many twists and turns, which seems typical of her storytelling. It’s not for the faint of heart, as some of the story is quite dreary, and some of it involved things that some people probably don’t like to think much about. But it’s worth the effort.
Ms. Waters is a great writer and pulls you immediately into the era in which the story takes place. If you love historical fiction, then you will be very pleased with the amount of detail and how the book makes those times come alive in your imagination. If you don’t care much about historical settings, the tale is still interesting enough to keep you constantly involved in wanting to know what happens next.
I rated it a four mostly because of the darker aspects in the book that won’t appeal to everyone. But if you feel like taking a bit of a risk, you won’t be disappointed, and the ending makes it all worth while.