The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
This book is: delightful!
Other elements: spoons, keys, ominous hats, little girls, paternal libraries, flying felines, heroines who save themselves.
Read it: if you love fairy tales: the kind that are beautiful but can also give you nightmares, not the Disney kind.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
This was the first book I read in 2014 and I hope that it was an omen for the kind of reading year I’m going to have, because I loved it.
Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. – Page 1
This book is take on the classic “girl is swept away to fairyland and has adventures” plot. But it’s not the basic plot that makes it glorious, it’s absolutely everything else.
Valente’s story is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It feels like discovering a classic fairy tale that I just had never heard – except that it’s not, it’s an entirely new thing. And a marvelous one. The complex but effortless world-building reminded me of some glorious combination of A Wrinkle in Time, The Wizard of Oz, and Narnia. The pull quotes on the front, back, and inside covers are glowing reviews from Neil Gaiman, Tamora Pierce, Holly Black, and Peter S. Beagle, which is both really impressive and totally deserved.
Here’s what Tamora Pierce says (and you know she’s in the top rank of author royalty in my book): “September is a clever, fun, strong-hearted addition to the ranks of Bold, Adventurous Girls. Valente’s subversive storytelling is pure magic.”
September climbed out of her kitchen window, leaving a sink full of soapy pink-and-yellow teacups with leaves still clinging to their bottoms in portentous shapes. One of them looked a bit like her father in his long coffee-colored trench coat, gone away over the sea with a rifle and gleaming things in his hat. One of them looked a bit like her mother, bending over a stubborn airplane engine in her work overalls, her arm muscles bulging. One of them looked a bit like a squashed cabbage. The Green Wind held out his hand, snug in a green glove, and September took both his hands and a very deep breath. One of her shoes came loose as she hoisted herself over the sill, and this will be important later, so let us take a moment to bid farewell to her prim little mary jane with its brass buckle as it clatters onto the parquet floor. Good-bye, shoe! September will miss you soon. – Page 2
I realize I haven’t told you much about the book, but that’s because I think you should just go read it. Seriously. If what I’ve told you sounds good, move this one to the top of your TBR right now. You won’t be sorry.