The heroine of Sarah Waters's audacious first novel knows her destiny, and seems content with it. Her place is in her father's seaside restaurant, shucking shellfish and stirring soup, singing all the while. "Although I didn't believe the story told to me by Mother--that they had found me as a baby in an oyster-shell, and a greedy customer had almost eaten me for lunch--for 18 years I never doubted my own oysterish sympathies, never looked beyond my father's kitchen for occupation, or for love." At night Nancy Astley often ventures to the nearby music hall, not that she has illusions of being more than an audience member. But the moment she spies a new male impersonator--still something of a curiosity in England circa 1888--her years of innocence come to an end and a life of transformations begins.
Club isn't outré enough for her. Kitting Nancy out in full, elegant drag, she dares the front desk to turn them away. "We are here," she mocks, "for the sake of the irregular."
Kerry Fried, Amazon.com
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
Intelligent, witty and stylish, the novel re-imagines a lost lesbian history through vivid sensual detail, evocative period slang (the title is a sexual euphemism) and a satisfyingly complex plot