Nancy Astley comes from a family of oyster farmers. For the first 19 years of her life she doesn't know much outside of the kitchen and life of an oyster farmer in the late 1800s. Her only source of fun is to visit the theatre every so often and catch live performances, until she sees Kitty Butler onstage dressed as a man. Nancy is immediately captured by Kitty's performance and spends the money on the train ride to see Kitty on stage many times until Kitty eventually invites Nancy into her dressing room. Nancy realizes that she is falling in love with Kitty, and sets out with Kitty to London, far away from her parents, as Kitty's dresser. What follows are the ups and downs of Nancy's life and how she finds herself and learns to love.
But, like so many, Nancy doesn't fall in love with the people that are right for her. She spends just as much time picking herself up as she does being happy. It's interesting to see her change her lifestyles so quickly to suit her lovers.
I'm really daft when it comes to symbolism in books, but Nancy really is like the oysters she shucked every day. Her exterior is rather rough, but with the right environment you can get at what you really want - a very interesting character.
The writing of this novel immediately captures you and keeps the pages turning. The descriptions are fantastic and almost lyrical. The characters are well drawn and quite realistic because they have so many flaws.