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And then there was the plot itself — because, oh dear, how lurid it sounded, how improbable, above all how niche, the tale of a Victorian oyster girl who loses her heart to a male impersonator, becomes her partner in bed and on the music hall stage, and then, cruelly abandoned, has a spell as a cross-dressed Piccadilly prostitute and the sexual plaything of a rich older woman before finding true love and redemption with an East End socialist. Nor, importantly, would those books have been available to me without the heroic gay and feminist small presses and bookshops of the era. Might it make them more feminist if they were shaped like dolphins? There was a lot to be angry about, but also a lot to celebrate and relish. If I were ever to write a sequel to the novel, hers is the story I might tell. Might it make them more feminist if they were shaped like dolphins?





Instead, it offers a s-flavoured lesbian Victorian London, complete with its own clubs, pubs and fashions.

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‘It was an electric time to be gay’: Sarah Waters on 20 years of Tipping the Velvet

The very patchiness of lesbian history, I was trying to say, invites or incites the lesbian historical novelist to pinch, to appropriate, to make stuff up. Queer theory was beginning to have an impact on ideas about sex, gender and identity. Collectively these works, many of them with an eye on the past, seemed to show grand narratives being prised open and made to reveal — or forced to accommodate — feminist stories, queer stories, lost stories, radical stories. Show 25 25 50 All. What makes her tick? It got me hooked on the Victorians, which led directly to my second and third novels, Affinity and Fingersmith. Still, I retain a huge affection for the book.

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And what fun it was to write! And when, inthe novel was adapted by Andrew Davies for the BBC, the story was sold to viewers, and promoted by tabloid newspapers, largely on its titillation value. Where did she come from? Instead, it offers a s-flavoured lesbian Victorian London, complete with its own clubs, pubs and fashions. And Nancy the narrator, who is meant to be looking back at her younger self from somewhere in middle age, is still very much the self-regarding twentysomething whose adventures she describes — very much the self-regarding twentysomething I was when I invented her, in other words.