Tipping the Night Smith: a Sarah Waters list

There’s something great in ranking an author’s work by how much you personally like it: you can cause controversy by revealing to others your list and always feel like when you’re a child and know which toys you like more than others but don’t quite want to tell them. Here I present my personal ordered list of Sarah Waters books, in descending order because I’m not a clickbait article trying to get you to read to the end. For those new to Sarah Waters: she writes historical, famously-Victorian-but-only-half-are-Victorian novels mostly full of lesbians and dramatic plot lines.

  1. Tipping the Velvet – The Victorian stage show one with the famous TV adaptation and probably the quintessential Sarah Waters book. It’s also the one with lots of melodramatic love affairs, sex, and minor betrayal, rather than imprisonment or death or war, so it’s a fun place to start.
  2. The Night Watch – The melancholy 1940s one. The narrative runs backwards to show what the now post-war characters did during the war and how their lives are or have been interlinked. Makes you wish you could change what you know happens to them because you’ve already been told it. Probably not to everyone’s taste but I loved it.
  3. Fingersmith – The tense Victorian thriller with a twist one. Also the one most people seem to have read, from my personal experience. Gripping and awful at times, with elements from most images of the Victorian era you might have.
  4. The Paying Guests – The genre-change 1920s one. Starts off like a sad repressed lesbian story where they gaze at each other around the husband of one of them. Turns into a very different novel about a murder investigation.
  5. Affinity – The prison spiritualist depressing one. The Victorian prison scenes are claustrophobic and impressive, but it’s also about as far from the so-called romp of Tipping the Velvet as you can get.

Note: I’ve not read The Little Stranger so it can be the other 1940s one nobody has read.