It’s no Fingersmith. I have to admit, had this been the first book I picked up by Sarah Waters, I would have never returned. Which is important to note because for a long time I was reluctant to pick up Fingersmith, thinking I should read Tipping the Velvet first. I thought I would enjoy it more because of the theatre aspect.
Boy was I so, so wrong.
The story sounds interesting enough: young Nancy, an poor oyster girl, falls in love with a girl on the stage, Kitty Butler, who dresses like a gentleman and ends up following her to London as her dresser. As the two live and work together they slowly become lovers in every sense of the word. Nancy begins to work on the stage alongside Kitty and has a quick rise to stardom, then a rapid descent to to rock bottom where she makes supremely bad decisions, all the way up to the end.
Having read Fingersmith first I was expected a more detailed, complex plot and this disappoints in that aspect. This one was just not as tightly woven–Fingersmith featured plots within plots within plots (and it was glorious). Though I do love the detail of the ending being wrapped up a brief one time introduction earlier in the book. The writing style is still beautifully crafted, this after all, is Sarah Waters. But her amazing prose isn’t enough to give this more than three stars.
Oh yeah, and it’s definitely erotic.
I have The Paying Guests to read next by her, but honestly after this dud I’m a little reluctant for some more Sarah Waters so soon.
This a good example of a novel where things happen around the main character instead of the main character actively making things happen. Essentially, Agnes Grey becomes a governess because her family is in dire financial straits and being a woman, her options are pretty limited. The novel follows her experience with spoiled children and unbearable parents (it’s not just a modern phenomenon, as it turns out).
There’s speculation that this novel is based on Anne’s experiences as a governess herself since she worked as one for a few years becoming a writer and I definitely see it. Only a person who experiences how terrible children can be can describe it in such a way. If these indeed reflect her experiences, I feel bad for her. The first set of children Agnes had to teach was particularly ugly and I have no idea how anyone could stand it.
In any case, I like it less than Wuthering Heights but scores more than Jane Eyre.
How does one rate a book like this? Because its terrifying, horrifying and all to real. This is the nightmare that all of us women have together.
It was a good book, I think in that it shows that society can really be crueler than you think. Two of the rapists were brothers and even their father thought they had raped Teena, yet he hires a lawyer to get them off with no punishment. No one will even talk to Bethie at school and call her a liar for telling what happened to her mother. Essentially, the whole town, the whole justice system, turns against them and to me, this was the most well done part of the book. The hatred and dismissal of the town people and a justice system that doesn’t care about truth really highlights why people often don’t report their rape–they’re afraid of exactly this.
I didn’t like that their rescue came in the form of a man who murders for them though. It’s my opinion that this softens the message, plus gives no hope for the rest of us. We can’t all go around killing people all the time. This becomes the relief for Teena and Bethie, and I didn’t really see any sort of emotional journey that they went through, just “they’re dead so now we’re safe and continue our lives.”
I also didn’t find it as engaging as I would have liked. It took me a really long time to read this tiny book.