a lovely mishmash of opinions interspersed with moments of clarity and vision by a vegan lesbian feminist mystery-loving, history-loving reader and writer.
I think "Tipping the Velvet" spoiled Waters' follow-up work for me. Or perhaps it's that Waters captures the Victorian era the best, because "Fingersmith" was fantastic, too. (I generally review books on how well I like the story, which is not necessarily the same thing as whether the writing is good or not.)
Waters' concept, of reversing chronological order, is an interesting one, a different way to write a novel, but I found it not so satisfying. Normally, in most novels that take an early-to-late chronological approach, by the time I get involved with the characters, I trust that their background is going to either be woven into the narrative or not terribly important. When Waters takes us backward in time, we're getting information that is already known; suspense is limited, repetition is risked. And yet, not everything that wants clarifying is clarified. How, exactly, did Mr Mundy and Duncan come to live together? What, exactly, happened between Julia and Kay? Why, after undergoing the procedure she went through, did Viv stay with Reggie?
This novel is generally entertaining, and as she does in all her novels, Waters' descriptive settings evoke the time period. Sometimes I marvel at how she decides what details to leave in and, more fantastically, how she even found these things, like the sounds of air raids, the singeing of hair, of what a blitzed-out London looked like (well, I suppose newsreels are helpful there, but Waters sets you in time and place perfectly).
The pace of the novel is uneven for me, and I think that's in part because a good chunk of it takes place in jail, and while Duncan as a character interests me, his time in jail does not. Reading stories of people in jail, unless they're first-hand accounts of political prisoners (even fictionalized), bores me. This is not to say that Waters is a bad writer, but that these segments of the novel made me sleepy. I wanted to know more about Duncan as a child than about his time in jail, for example. I think this is also a danger of writing a novel that features several main characters: some of the characters will inevitably be annoying, or boring, or part of an uninteresting plot, and it makes the novel feel uneven. I also find that the characters I wanted to know the most about, Kay, for example, I knew the least about. We get most of Kay's backstory from Julia, who comes across as an arrogant, annoying woman, someone I, at least, could note understand Helen's attraction to -- or Kay's, for that matter. She's unreliable. That was perhaps my biggest problem with this novel: too much time spent on characters I didn't care for.