Personal life update: I cut my hair this past summer! I cut it all off, shorter than it has ever been. My hair resembles (less now than when first cut, but still!) the hair of the girl on the cover of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. This is the first time I have ever walked into a hair salon and asked them to cut off this much hair. Usually I am begging them to cut off less. Anyway, now I have a super cute flapper haircut, and when I put on my cloche hat I look hella jaunty.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses set in the speakeasies of 1920s New York. Confined to their house by a father wanting to conceal his repeated failures to produce a male heir, the Hamilton sisters find their freedom by sneaking out in the night to go dancing. The oldest of the twelve, Jo, orchestrates these outings, ferociously strict with her sisters and always trying to find the balance between freedom and safety. Genevieve Valentine does the nearly impossible thing of making sense out of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, a story which, as Mumsy pointed out to me when recommending this book, makes not even a particle of sense. Fairy tales.
The twelve sisters are relatively distinct from each other, which is quite some trick when you have twelve of them. Of necessity, the four oldest receive the most narrative attention, Jo in particular. A lifetime of corraling sisters, protecting them from her father, and finding ways to keep them sane has left Jo with a lot of hard edges, and I love Genevieve Valentine for refusing to soften her. Some of the sisters a little lower down the chain get defined fairly briefly, but Valentine does enough work on each that you’re able to keep them straight. She’s attentive to the fact that even a group of very similar sisters would all feel different inside their own minds; and when — later in the book — they are separated into smaller groups for spoiler reasons, the actions of each set of girls makes sense with what we’ve known of them.
Oddly enough, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club was the first of two books I read this summer in which women seemed unfazed by a confession of murder from their potential romantic partners. Y’all, just as a refresher, if you are on a date and the other person admits to having killed someone, even if you think your life is a book that would be labeled paranormal romance at the library, you should still probably get out of there pretty quickly. That is a safety tip from me to you.
Thanks to Clare and Anastasia for recommending this, along with, of course, my lovely Mumsy! And you should also probably read Ana’s post reviewing it, as she’s predictably eloquent about its good qualities. Plus, The Book Smugglers. Tor.com. NPR calling this “the best fairy tale retelling I’ve ever read” (aw). Oh I do enjoy seeing Genevieve Valentine get all this love.
PS: If you like Genevieve Valentine, as I do, you will be delighted to learn that she is writing an arc of Catwoman for DC Comics, which will start coming out in late October. It seems perfectly possibly that DC Comics will end up doing something terrible relating to Genevieve Valentine and/or Catwoman, because DC Comics is always being terrible and seems weirdly incapable of course-correcting to non-terribleness. But let’s hope for the best, shall we?