There are three parts to the book, and they almost seem like 3 seperate novels, set in 3 different places, with 3 different characters. It's hard to believe that one person experienced all three. But at the same time, each part helps the character to grow and makes her who she is in the second part.
The beginning is about a girl, Nancy Astley, who lives in a small town in Kent, England. The time period is hinted at just by the costumes and the lack of radio/TV. It's not until page 117 that they say what year it is. For entertainment she goes to the music hall with her sister, because her sister is dating an employee there. They are a working class family, and Nancy doesn't have much time for friends or socialization. The whole beginning part (the first two chapters) really drag on, but as soon as she meets her love interest, the book picks up.
At first, the character of Kitty is wonderful and exciting and reminds me of my first loves. Up until page 177, when she leaves Kitty, the book moves at a fast pace and is both joyous and sad. About 1/2 way into her relationship with Kitty though, I began to distrust her, before Nancy did. The fact that she ended up with Walter and Nancy reacted how she did was no surprise to me.
The whole second part, when she is "renting" on the streets and then working as Diana's boy, is very gritty and slightly disturbing to read. It actually came as quite a shock to me that the book went in that direction.
But it all comes together again in the third part when she meets Florence, and is brought into Florence's circle of lesbian friends, who are quite different than Diana. The two parts definately show the differences in class and preferece of the street renters, the upper class, and the working class. The relationship that grew between Nancy and Florence was very sweet, because it was like she got to start over.
And the ending... of course Kitty would come back, how else would one end a book of nearly 500 pages? But the way that it took Kitty coming back to make both Nancy and Florence recognize their true feelings for each other... was a beautiful and very believable ending. It was actuall quite moving the way that both of them reacted. I also liked the way that after that, it ended very open-ended... because I was left to imagine the best.
I look forward to reading other people's opnions on the book. I look forward to reading Sarah Water's other books now.