Sarah Waters

De Britse schrijfster Sarah Waters werd geboren in Neyland, Wales, op 21 juli 1966. Ze ging daar ook naar school en bezocht later de universiteit van Canterbury waar ze haar doctoraat in Engelse literatuur verkreeg. Haar specialisering was moderne homoliteratuur vanaf de negentiende eeuw. Zij deed voor haar proefschrift onderzoek naar lesbische historische romans. Door een bestudering van de negentiende-eeuwse seksuele onderwerelden toont zij onder meer aan dat de voorstellingen die men tegenwoordig van (homo)seksualiteit in de Victoriaanse periode heeft, in het beste geval stereotiep en in het slechtste geval onjuist zijn. Haar werk voor haar promotiethesis inspireerde haar tot het schrijven van haar eigen lesbische historische romans waarin ze het Victoriaanse tijdperk nieuw leven inblaast. Door haar stijl, de periode waarin haar romans zich afspelen en het feit dat haar hoofdpersonages uit de onderklasse afkomstig zijn, wordt zij vaak vergeleken met Dickens. Zij ontving o.a. de Betty Trask Award, Somerset Maugham award, de Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, Young Writer of the Year Award en de CWA Historical Dagger prizee. Twee van haar boeken werden door de BBC tot miniseries bewerkt. In 2002 verscheen “Tipping the Velvet” met Rachael Stirling en Keeley Hawes in de hoofdrollen. De serie zorgde voor enige opschudding, omdat op de BBC nog nooit eerder zulke expliciet (lesbische) erotische scènes werden uitgezonden. In 2005 werd Waters’ derde boek “Fingersmith” verfilmd, met Sally Hawkins, Elaine Cassidy en Rupert Evans in de belangrijkste rollen. In het voorjaar van 2006 verscheen haar vierde roman getiteld “The Night Watch” die zich tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog afspeelt.    

 Uit: Tipping the Velvet

“Have you ever tasted a Whitstable oyster? If you have, you will remember it. Some quirk of the Kentish coastline makes Whitstable natives – as they are properly called – the largest and the juiciest, the savouriest yet the subtlest, oysters in the whole of England. Whitstable oysters are, quite rightly, famous. The French, who are known for their sensitive palates, regularly cross the Channel for them; they are shipped, in barrels of ice, to the dining-tables of Hamburg and Berlin. Why, the King himself, I heard, makes special trips to Whitstable with Mrs Keppel, to eat oyster suppers in a private hotel; and as for the old Queen – she dined on a native a day (or so they say) till the day she died.
Did you ever go to Whitstable, and see the oyster-parlours there? My father kept one; I was born in it – do you recall a narrow, weather-boarded house, painted a flaking blue, half-way between the High Street and the harbour? Do you remember the bulging sign that hung above the door, that said that Astley’s Oysters, the Best in Kent were to be had within? Did you, perhaps, push at that door, and step into the dim, low-ceilinged, fragrant room beyond it? Can you recall the tables with their chequered cloths – the bill of fare chalked on a board – the spirit-lamps, the sweating slabs of butter?
Were you served by a girl with a rosy cheek, and a saucy manner, and curls? That was my sister, Alice. Or was it a man, rather tall and stooping, with a snowy apron falling from the knot in his neck-tie to the bow in his boots? That was my father. Did you see, as the kitchen door swung to and fro, a lady stand frowning into the clouds of steam that rose from a pan of bubbling oyster soup, or a sizzling gridiron?
That was my mother.
And was there at her side a slender, white-faced, unremarkable- looking girl, with the sleeves of her dress rolled up to her elbows, and a lock of lank and colourless hair forever falling into her eye, and her lips continually moving to the words of some street-singer’s or music-hall song?
That was me.
Like Molly Malone in the old ballad, I was a fishmonger, because my parents were. They kept the restaurant, and the rooms above it: I was raised an oyster-girl, and steeped in all the flavours of the trade. My first few childish steps I took around vats of sleeping natives and barrels of ice; before I was ever given a piece of chalk and a slate, I was handed an oysterknife and instructed in its use; while I was still lisping out my alphabet at the schoolmaster’s knee, I could name you the contents of an oyster-cook’s kitchen – could sample fish with a blindfold on, and tell you their variety. Whitstable was all the world to me, Astley’s Parlour my own particular country, oyster-juice my medium. Although I didn’t long 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 eighteen years I never doubted my own oysterish sympathies, never looked far beyond my father’s kitchen for occupation, or for love. »

Sarah Waters (Neyland, 21 juli 1966)