Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: To Be Read

The Broke and the Bookish hold a weekly meme.  Every Tuesday you write a list of their top ten on a given topic.  This week, the list is your 'TBR' (To Be Read) list.  Here are my books:

1. Mort by Terry Pratchett - a classic Discworld novel, everyone loves the character Death so I would like to get to know him.

The Gream Reaper riding a white horse

2. Still Alice by Lisa Genova - this is the story of 50 year old who is diagnosed with early onset dementia; it looks an insightful read on a topic rarely covered.

Still Alice, The million-copy bestseller

3. Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid - this is offers a us a short history of the science used by the police behind-the-scenes.

White background with only a fly on it

4. Emma by Jane Austen - there have been a lot of talk about Emma recently, mainly that this is the best Jane Austen novel so it looks like a great place to start.

Whimsical print, sort of floral, fruity

5. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz - this is a Sherlock Holmes novel, which I was lucky enough to get for the Ninja Book Swap. I love Sherlock so I will be very happy when I get around to reading this.

Ghostly outline of an Edwardian house

6. Go Set a Watchmen by Harper Lee - I really enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, so I can't wait to find out what Scout is up to now.

US cover

7. Maurice by E.M. Forster - again, like Emma, there have been a lot of good reviews recently.

Two men sit close together on a bench, not speaking & looking outwards

8. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson - this is a YA novel about a transgender main character, this is something I've not read before so I'm curious to find out more.

A cartoon girl comes out of the middle of a cartoon boy

9. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett - I took a quiz to see what character I am most like, apparently Lord Vetanari, (a.k.a. a benevolent dictator... a nice bossy person?) and this seems like the best place to begin learning more about Lord Vetanari.

A dragon sets a city on fire

10. A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by Alexandra Petri - a collection of essays on being socially awkward, based on true life and lots of unusual life experience.  Seems to be an inspiring read.

A girl in colourful socks plays an accordion

So, that's my list... what do you think?  What is on your own TBR list?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Classics Spin #9

The Classics Club are hosting a 'Spin'.  On Monday 6th April, the Classics Club will post a number from 1-20, and the challenge is to read that book by Friday May 15th (kind of a bookish roulette).
I've followed the categories for the Spin to make it more interesting.  You can also follow the challenge on Twitter with #ccspin

Here is my list, with a brief explanation for each:

Five you are dreading/hesitant to read:

1. Updike, John: Rabbit, Run (I started this book but I couldn't get into it, 2-5 seem upsetting)
2. Atwood, Margaret: A Handmaid’s Tale 
3. Dostoevesky, Fyodor: The Idiot 
4. Eliot, George: Silas Marner
5. Salinger, J.D.: The Catcher in the Rye

Five you can’t WAIT to read:

6.Hesse, Hermann: Siddhartha (I studied Indian philosophy, so I feel I should have read this)
7. Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Really enjoyed the film)
8. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca (Reading mostly for my own novel)
9. Austen, Jane: Emma (Rave reviews)
10. Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Lord of the Rings (This needs to explanation, just need to finish Bk 3)

Five you are neutral about:

11. Yates, Richard: Revolutionary Road (I've read Yates before but wasn't wowed)
12. Lee, Laurie: Cider With Rosie
13. Vonnegut, Kurt: Breakfast of Champions 
14. Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth 
15. Proust, Marcel: Swann’s Way (This should be higher as Ralph Fiennes' Desert Island Book)

Five free choice:

16. Steinbeck, John: Grapes of Wrath (These all seem like great books, not too long either)
17. Kerouac, Jack: On the Road 
18. James, Henry: Turn of the Screw
19. Waugh, Evelyn: Brideshead Revisited
20. Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Bookish Q&A

What is the last hardback you bought?
A signed ed. of Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig.  I have a very small collection of signed books, and I thought it would make a good additon.  Plus, there are lots of rave reviews online.

What is the last paperback you bought?
Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier for Classics Club.

What is the last eBook you bought?
Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid.  I wanted to buy something I don't normally read and Val McDermid seemed a great place to start.

What is the last audiobook you bought?
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie (biography) and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra from Listening Books.  I get to borrow two audiobooks a week and then store them indefinitely on my iTunes.  

What books are you currently reading?
Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig, the D.H. Lawrence Dover Reader and Awakened by Autism.  The latter two are on kindle, which I read before going to bed, travelling etc.  Reasons To Stay Alive I read when I have short breaks.  Normally I have an audiobook for when I am at the gym, but I want to finish one of the three before I start a new audiobook.

Any books that are on your wish list?
Mort by Terry Pratchett and The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. Also, books on my Mental Illness Awareness Reading Challenge and LGTB challenge.

Do you have any preference over book length?
An old phrase springs to mind - 'Some books should be articles and some articles should be books'.  I don't mind as long as all the words are used wisely.

Do you have a specific organising system for your bookcase?
I used to have my books organised by first publication date.  The reason being, I liked to see what came before and after an author, contemporaries etc.  This was also good because I have a lot of Russian and American authors, as well as British and it makes for a good historical contrast.  I have too many books now making it unfeasible so books are arranged in sections.  In my three bookcases are the sections: Hardbacks/signed ed.;  Psychoanalysis; Philosophy; Buddhism; Fiction; History; Poetry; Autobiographies; Crime/Horror; Russian; Richard & Judy Book Club and a three row deep pile of books stacked with horizontal spines of books I might want to read after a month of Sundays.  I also have several cardboard boxes of books to sell/give away.

Do you keep a record of the books you've read? If yes, how? 
I am coming up to my fifth year of keeping my book diary.  Basically, I came to the conclusion I didn't want to forget about a book I've already read and so I went to the back page of my Paperchase notebook and started writing the book title, author and date.  My first entry is "Laughter In The Dark - V. Nabokov 26/4/11".  I averaged a book a month for four years and a book and a half every month.  I am about to start my fourth A5 page.

Picture shows a list of book titles that I have read

This year I am averaging four books a month, which is a big improvement for me. 

A person interrupts your reading what do you do?
Look at how long I have left in my chapter and ask them to come back in x amount of minutes when I've finished.  If it is a really good book, I go:

A character is being irritating what do you do?

I tend to shut a book with a loud bang and march off.  The last time I did that was with Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. (Like seriously, Philip you were being such an idiot, do you have no self-respect?!!). 

Says 'Lol' sarcastically then 'B*tch please'

Any bookish peeves? 
I like to keep my books pristine.  I dislike ink smudges and creased spines.  Book spoilers in blog posts!!! 


Yes, I have a wide variety that have been gifted to me over the years.  I use two bookmarks, one for where I am going to stop reading and one for the page I am currently on so I don't loose my place.  If I am desperate I will use a scrap of paper.

Any conundrums you've faced when reading?
What do you do when the book publication order of a series isn't the same if you are reading events in the series in chronological order (e.g. the Sharpe series does not follow Sharpe from youth to old age)?

What do you drink while reading?
Tea - English Breakfast with milk and either two sugars or two spoonfuls of honey.

Ideal place to read?
Sitting in my Mexican hammock in the apple tree in my parent's garden.  The weather is sunny, with a light breeze.  The birds in the hedge are gently chirping and I have a nice stiff drink with no responsibilites/to do list.  I don't ask for much...

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Literal News: February-March 2015

Literal News is a bi-monthly digest of book related events.  Anything missing?  Comment below.

Controversy over The Buried Giant 

Ursula Le Guin has been leading arguments over how Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel should be categorised.  There is also suggestions that sci-fi and fantasy have a stigma attached to them which is slowly reducing (shock horror: mainstream fantasy novels include the series: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and a Game of Thrones).  (A brief speech from Ursula Le Guin is available here.)

Also of note, for those who want to learn more about The Buried Giant, David Suchet is reading an abridged version for Radio 4's Book at Bedtime series available for a very limited time here.

New Stieg Larson book
Stieg Larson wrote Millennium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc.).  Sadly, he died before finishing the fourth book.  Eva Gabrielsson, his girlfriend, has the beginnings of the fourth book, something that was the subject of a fierce battle over ownership with Larson's family.  (For those interested in the controversy, reading is available here.)  David Lagercrantz has written a fourth novel Det som inte dödar oss, (Swedish for "That Which Does Not Kill Us") however, Lagercrantz has not had access to any unpublished material.  For those interested in Lagercrantz's addition, the new book will be published in August

UPDATE: The book covers have just been released.  Left for US and right for UK.  Already people are divided over whether they are going to be reading it.

New Margaret Atwood book 
Due out September as a stand alone novel.  BBC article.

Sir Terry Pratchett tributes
Some websites have a secret code asking "GNU Terry Pratchett", paying tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett.  More info is available here and here .
Neil Gaiman's tribute is also well worth a read.

Two new Sherlock Holmes books
Two 'book' (or short stories at 1,300 words) have been found. Excerpt for first, info about second book.

New Harper Lee
Harper Lee has a 'new' book coming soon.  This was the first book she gave to the publishers, until the publishers suggested writing what became To Kill A Mockingbird.  There has been some controversy over whether Lee was bullied into publishing the book, but investigations have found this not to be the case.  As an aside, Stylist magazine have an article linking three of Lee's essays available to read here.

Shows a train on a track moving towards a dark tree, seems to have 60s feel

Update.  UK Version seems to be different.

Matt Haig
Matt Haig has been making a lot of headway talking about depression and his new book Reasons To Stay Alive.  For those thinking about buying the book, or who have read the book and would like to now a bit more, Haig has  done an interview with The Daily Mail.  For those who disparage the Daily Mail, here is the Yorkshire Post.

'Popular' Reading statistics
aka. what the people who responded to this survey read.  Comedy gold journalism:
"They’d rather have a dog (49%) than a cat (35%), and the tiger (47%) is by far and away their favourite animal. (Obviously the publishers of The White Tiger, Tigers in Red Weather, The Tiger’s Wife, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother et al were onto something.) The poor old elephant gets only 21% of the vote, followed by giraffe (12%) and zebra (8%).

Tickets for Hay Festival 2015 are on sale and being snapped up fast.  Highlights include Stephen Fry, Michael Morpurgo, Germaine Greer and more.

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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Never Let Me Go follows the life of three students from Hailsham: Kathy, Tommy and Ruth.  Over the course of the book, we learn from the narrator Kathy more about their relationships with each other and the purpose of their life.  Having seen all the hype about Kazuo Ishiguro's writings, which has resurfaced with his new book The Buried Giant, I wanted to see if Kazuo Ishiguro was as good as people said.  As this book was also listed for the Classics Club it naturally made perfect sense to add this to the TBR list.  This book was definitely hard to put down; when I came away from the audiobook I was left wondering what Kathy would be up to next.  Having finished it, I was left feeling sad, not in the teary sense but in way sad-confused-bereft way (don't worry, I detest spoilers so there will be none on this blog).

I am Keanu sad.

Although Never Let Me Go is divided into Childhood, Adult and Donor it is not exactly chronological.  This created a really enjoyable feel to the book.  Like Kathy, we gain fragments of knowledge that we slowly try to piece together.  We are both told about something before we understand what it means. (What is the "gallery" or "donation"?)  If you want to understand terms being used etc. then we have to carry on, just like Kathy, Tommy and Ruth.  For some reason, this book reminds me of Brave New World in reverse.  At the beginning, we have learn all about the 'science' that the society uses (e.g. how people are made etc.) and later branch into the learning about the characters and morality (or ethical questions for the philosophy purists).  Never Let Me Go tells us about the characters and then goes into the societies science and the ethics of it.  (I think the questions of ethics have a quiet force - they are not blatantly asked in your face, but more suggested in the subtext.)  There is also a nice romantic subplot, which some of you may be able to guess.

Mortality is another theme within this book.  Again, I am blighted by the risk of spoilers so I will keep it specifically vague.  If you do read it (which I highly recommend) maybe you will pick up on why I am writing what I am.  It will be my birthday soon and I can't help but think that if I was born 200 years ago or more, I would most likely be halfway through my life by now which is quite a scary thought.  I am very grateful I was born in the 1990s.  I saw myself making comparisons between Kathy and myself; I was frequently asking myself "is this true for me too?"  This book reminds me how important it is to take the chances that we can, to not waste what time we have.  

Caption "The Bitterness of Mortality"
Without life, I would not be able to watch the Lord of the Rings

There has been a lot of controversy over the genre of this work.  
"Ishiguro compared the reception of his new novel to his 2005 dystopian parable Never Let Me Go, which had critics and readers alike debating its genre classification. “I think genre rules should be porous, if not nonexistent. All the debate around Never Let Me Go was, ‘is it sci-fi or is it not?’”" - Source: The Guardian.
I normally label book reviews with both genres and themes.  I think books should be defined by its themes but we shouldn't get too hung up by a label.  For me, a good book makes a lasting impression and makes me think about something (either in a new light or about something I never considered before).  This book definitely makes you think... think about our actions, the chance to love and the immanence of death.  I will not give too much away, but the novel did make me think about how we treat people, animals and the environment as a society.  Should we just trust that other people treat things with respect?  Or, should we actively make sure, step out of the ignorance and do our best to make life as comfortable for every being as we can?

Kerry Fox is a really good narrator, you could easily believe that Fox was Kathy.  In many ways, if you closed your eyes you could imagine someone sitting opposite you at a pub table telling you this story as though it was real.  Her acting range is impressive; her voices for each character are memorable, identifiable and consistent.  When Fox speaks with disdain it reminds me of Benedict Cumberbatch which is a testament of her acting.  I also have two new Audible badges:  'On The Trot' (listened for 7 days in row) and 'The Annotator' Silver (placed at least 40 bookmarks).

Feels full of disdain, patronising, like someone should not be in Sherlock's presence.
Want some ice for that burn?

Overall, this was a really enjoyable and unique read.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Kazuo Ishiguro.

Book Facts
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 288
My Edition: Audible
Narrator: Kerry Fox
Production date: 2014 (Canongate Faber Audio)
Length: 9 hours 26 mins
Young girl turns quickly, it is dizzying and confusing. Who is she? How old is she? What is she doing?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge (MIA)

Opinions of a wolf "started the Mental Illness Advocacy (MIA) Reading Challenge in December 2010 in an effort to raise awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of mental illness."  This Reading Challenge is an excellent way to discover new literature on a subject that can be quite difficult to find.  Opinions of a wolf has carefully curated a comprehensive reading list because only books with a balanced, respectful discussion are allowed.  (The list is also arranged by subject for easy use.)  Hopefully this will raise much needed awareness in a positive manner. 

I have enjoyed many books with characters with mental health in the past (most notably, Addition by Toni Jordan, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simons and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - also an amazing play) and I am looking forward to reading some more!  

Challenge levels:

Acquainted - 4 books
Aware - 8 books
Advocate - 12 books
So far: 2 books read

Books for my challenge: 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Caisson
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (review)
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (review)

The MIA also has a GoodReads group which notifies you of new additions to the reading list.  They also use hashtag #miarc

Thank you to Amanda for all your hard work with this excellent challenge. 

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

To The Lighthouse is an unusual classic.  It is a work of experimental fiction that uses the 'stream of consciousness' style.  In reality, To The Lighthouse has no true narrator; we trace one characters thoughts and feelings and then move to another and so forth with no real comment on the validity of what has passed.  (In a way, this is a very 'mindful' novel as meditation/mindfulness often teaches you to be aware of all passing thoughts in a non-judgmental way.)  This novel is mostly a collection of "interior monologue".  I get the feeling that this novel isn't about plot for Woolf (mostly because the little that does happen isn't really examined, it just happens) but about human relationships and the meaning of life.

For some reason, I didn't connect with this book.  I liked the concept of having no narrator but in practice it was hard to know who was talking and who they were referring to.  There is no clear indication of when a change of perspective takes place, it just blurs into one.  If you don't want to do a lot of work reading this book then it can become very obscure very quickly.  I frequently had to go back to the blurb to try to figure out who was happening.  I think this is one of those books that will be better on the second read.

The other issue was that I didn't really care about the characters; I didn't get the deal over the lighthouse (but I think the main off-putting feature was how it was framed in Freudian terms).  I found Lily and Mrs Ramsey far more interesting characters and somehow, Lily reminded me of E.M. Forster's A Room With a View.  I think that the style of the novel constrained the elements of a book that I enjoy.  It is difficult to get to know a character in this way.  I enjoy a good plot and I also enjoy going into great depth with themes or character development.  This book is mostly an afternoon looked at from different perspectives.  When I put this book down, I did not feel a great desire to finish it and I struggled to get back into it.

The good parts of this book definitely come in waves.  Time Passes was by far my favourite section, in many ways I found it quite brutal but I didn't the book overall remarkable.  For those curious about the Boeuf en Daube in the dinner party,  I found this amazing blog post from yummy-books with a recipe, hopefully I can try it soon.

From what I could tell, there were two main themes, human relationships and the whether a person's life has any meaning, or can leave any significant legacy.  The first theme didn't really excite me.  It was mostly textbook Freudian themes and whether a woman can remain unmarried (both of which are now either cliché or mostly irrelevant).  The second theme was more interesting, but I felt it was just 'put out there' on the table.  Woolf seems to have picked out three types of 'paths' and each example thinks about what difference they will make in the world.  Firstly, we have a philosopher (Mr Ramsay) who obsesses over his work, whether it is any good, what affect it will have etc.  Then we have the artist (Lily) who struggles trying to accurately depict what she sees on the canvas.  Finally, we have the mother (Mrs Ramsay) whose concern is her family and friends.  I enjoyed how Woolf portrayed the insecurities and doubts of Lily and Mr Ramsay and I wonder how much they applied to Woolf herself.  If I am honest and without any spoilers, I think that out of the three Mrs Ramsay will leave the biggest legacy.  This frankly surprised me, as before this I would have thought it would have been the philosopher.  The other thing that surprised me was this:
“The very stone one kicks with one's boot will outlast Shakespeare."
A lot of the questions are left to the reader to ask; they are not hinted at subtly like many other authors do.  Perhaps, the answer Woolf hints at is that the majority of us will only ever have a finite affect on the world around us.  I think Woolf's own effect depends on the reader and what they like.  This book clearly has its merits, but it is not one that interests me.

Book facts
Publication Date: 1927 
Pages: 306
Publisher: Penguin Books (Penguin Popular Classics series)
Cover: (1996 edition)

A young lady is lost deep in thought on a beach shore

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Creative Writing: "This next bit's really nice."

I have started working on my first novel, I've been sitting on this idea for a long time (both of writing and the plot).   In Channel 4's The Book Group (well worth a watch) Kenny reads out Jack Kerouac's writing advice at the book group for On the Road and so occasionally, I will post a few nice things I have seen online about writing.  Mostly for fun.  Mainly as a reminder to help it stick.

Character reading a book, saying "This next bit's really nice."

Let the madness begin!

majestic-seagull asked: I'm an aspiring author, but I feel like all of my ideas are too heavily inspired by other works of fiction. I really like them, but I'm worried that if I show people they'll think I copied X or Y. Any advice? When we start out, we sound like other people.   As we write we sound more and more like ourselves, and we become ourselves. We learn that it’s not the ideas that matter as much as the way we express the idea.   As we live we accumulate life experience, and it’s where we get our own ideas from. We stop sounding like other people, stop doing things their way, and start doing them our own way.  My advice is to keep writing.

Source: Neil Gaiman tumblr.

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. By Anais Nin.

3. Make your story question the world. A story should never set out to answer a question, rather it should pose the question correctly. Here I am paraphrasing advice from Chekhov. Good writing offers up a knotty picture of the world for a reader to untangle: Over here, reader! Look at this tangle of thorns! A story which ties everything up in neat conclusions might be more commercial (read Disney) but if it doesn’t make us question the world then it cannot claim to be art.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Thank you Rhys & the Ninja Book Swap team

Last month I signed up for the Hometown Ninja Book Swap (link).  Basically, you sign up and pass on a book wish list, as well as a few likes/dislikes and in return you get another person's wish list, likes/dislikes.  The aim is to send one or two books and a few small gifts and the person who you send to is different to the person you will be receiving off.

This year was my first sign up and I have to say I am super impressed.  The Ninja Book Swap team are super friendly, especially on their twitter account. I was also super lucky to be spoiled by Rhys from Kent!!

Postcard from Kent, The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, The Great Winglebury Duel by Charles Darwin, Harry Potter tote bag, book mark with flowers on, smarties, badge saying "Read Local"
Super spoilt!

Wrapping paper has flowers on and spots
Beautiful wrapping paper! 

I also was super lucky to get my first Penguin Little Black Classic - 
Charles Dicken's The Great Winglebury Duel

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and The Great Winglebury Duel by Charles Darwin in a pile with smarties in a small chocolate chick on top

I also have a bookmark to help me keep my place in my lovely new books, 
a Harry Potter bag to look after the new books and a badge with Read Local on to remind everyone about books, all courtesy of Rhys!

I was also very grateful for a special, handmade Sherlock card which is now on my desk wall!

Front of card reads "I'm not a psychopath. I'm a high-functioning sociopath! Do your research!" It is blutacked to a wall.
"I'm not a psychopath. I'm a high-functioning sociopath! Do your research!"

Which opens to reveal.... Holmes at home

Pop up of the Sherlock character, he has a mop of black hair, blue scarf and a long black coat
and a lovely message beneath

Finally, my post card of the Kent Coast too :-)
Shows postcard on wall with pictures of my dog and other postcards
New addition to the second postcard wall!

Thank you, Rhys from Kent :-) 

Shows Sherlock, John Watson and Mary together smiling with a caption saying "Thank you"

Monday, 2 March 2015

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tipping the Velvet follows Nancy from Whitstable who meets Kitty Butler, a male impersonator, who needless to say, turns Nancy's life upside down in more ways than one.  As well as being sold as a LGBT novel, it is also a historical novel set in the Victorian times.  One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage me to branch out into genres I normally do not read.  Having read (and supremely enjoyed) The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall I thought I would branch out further into the LGBT scene.  Sarah Waters is quite the celebrity on the LGBT scene and so with a spare Audible credit I thought I would try her for myself.

The main thing that surprised me about this book was that I did not feel like I was reading a 'lesbian novel'.  In reality, this is a book packed purely with events and focuses on action.  This is a book with lesbian characters not lesbian themes; lesbianism itself and other themes are not looked at, the main concern of the characters is whether the feelings are mutual  (which happens in heterosexual relationships anyway).   Personally, I feel that if Sarah Waters gave either Nancy or Kitty a sex change, the plot of the book could easily accommodate this change.

As for the events, I felt that some of them were predictable but on the other side, the events were well set-up and realistic.  The events happened at a good pace and at a good rate.  I wasn't really bored and there wasn't a phase where some dragged out.  I do feel that some of the characters were unfairly judgemental towards the main character, Nancy.  Yes, she is guilty of not really thinking about her actions but then again, as a poor Victorian woman, she was not exactly brimming with choices.  Furthermore, there's a difference between 'fucking' and being in a healthy, loving relationship and if Sarah Waters was hinting at this distinction, it was poorly done.  If anything, I feel sorry for Nancy and I'm glad that I have more (theoretical) freedom when it comes to making money.  Maybe when Sarah Waters brought in the socialist element in the last few chapters she herself was sympathetic towards Nancy.  I think that if you enjoyed Bridget Jones's Diary then you may enjoy this.

"I didn't mean it. Well, I meant it, but I was so stupid that I didn't mean what I meant."
Who should be apologising to who?

Nancy as a character was hard to understand psychologically in several ways.  At the beginning it was hard to understand how much of a lesbian she was (e.g. was this just a one off? Curiosity?).   What I am getting at is that I feel like I don't really know Nancy; it is hard to see what personality and qualities she has.  For instance, if you asked me at the beginning whether Nancy would leave Whitstable to London and then actually work as a music-hall star I would have said no, as she didn't seem the type to have the courage to do so.  Again, Sarah Waters seems to focus purely on plot, event, actions etc. etc. and this has its downsides.

Doing a bit of research, Sarah Waters did her PhD on lesbianism in the 1800s which explains how the book is well researched but as with A History of Loneliness by John Boyne, it is hard to know to what extent it is a fair portrayal.  For me, this isn't much of a worry because a lot of the events take place 'behind closed doors' and so Nancy is not really 'out of the closet' in any major sense.  The only point I felt was unrealistic were the last two lines of the book - which, isn't to knock the ending.  I think Sarah Waters made a good point of tying up all loose ends in the final chapters.  (Tipping the Velvet was also made into a BBC mini-series (with Benedict Cumberbatch), which might be off interest to those who like to watch first or for those who have already read the book).

The narrator, Juanita McMahon, was really enjoyable.  The last audiobook I really enjoyed was Ethan Hawke's reading of Slaughterhouse Five.  A narrator has the power to make a good novel bad and a good novel great.  Juanita McMahon is one of the latter kind.  I have to admit however, it was very weird walking around Betws y Coed and Llangollen listening to the audiobook when the erotic scenes were taking place.  I had to have a few shifty glances and make sure no sound leaked out of my headphones (I can see now why people read erotica on their anonymous eReaders).  As a side note, I now have 'Weekend Warrior' and 'Night Owl' on my Audible badges app.

The reason why I didn't give this book 5 stars are twofold.  Firstly, whilst it was entertaining it didn't make me think 'wow'.  Secondly, I doubt I would read this book again, although I would consider reading another book by Sarah Waters.  However, for a romantic drama it is a good one, not too soppy or unbelievable.

Book Facts
Publication Date: 1998
Pages: 480
My Edition: Audible
Narrator: Juanita McMahon
Production date: 2014
Length: 19 hours and 10 minutes
Sarah Waters Tipping the Velvet. Review: "One of the best storytellers alive today..." Cartoon drawing of a top hat and cane.

Upcoming reviews:
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.