The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine.
This book is: a 1920’s dance hall retelling of the fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.
Other elements: family, sisters, duty over love, self-identity, dancing, the 1920’s.
Read it: if you enjoy historical fiction, 1920’s dancing, and stories about sisters.
Overall rating: 8/10
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a retelling of the classic fairy tale about the Twelve Dancing Princesses – which, I will tell you right up front, is not a fairy tale I ever considered interesting enough to retell. I had to Wikipedia it just now to remind myself of the salient points (other than “dancing” and “princesses”).
Genevieve Valentine took the story of the princesses, translated it into the world of a wealthy 1920’s widower and his brood of neglected daughters, and turned the whole thing into the seed for a fabulous and completely new novel. The princesses in The Girls at the Kingfisher Club are a dozen sisters who live alone in a large house with a controlling, neglectful father and begin sneaking out to dance at night as a way to taste the vitality of life that they so desperately crave. The girls’ desires to evolve into their own respective independent selves is a counterpoint to their ongoing war with their father and the adventure of the dances that are their only bright point in their lives.
As I write this summary, I keep going back up to the top and giving this book a higher and higher rating. It really was exceptionally well done, with such an original concept. Not to mention the fact that it takes some doing to create 12 characters in identical circumstances and manage to give them distinct personalities. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is rich, vivid, unique, and features strong lady characters set in the 1920’s. What more could I want?
My one quibble – very possibly because I read in this in February and when it was cold and dark outside and the sky is so gray – is that I would have liked a little more happiness in this novel. I wanted something hopeful and light to weave into the anxious darkness of the majority of the story. I’m an older sister (just to one younger, not 11) but the idea of having so many sisters to look after in such dire straits was pretty distressing to me and I desperately wanted to have a little bit more of an uplifting counterpoint to the overwhelming strife.
Despite that seasonally induced objection (remind me to get a sun lamp next winter), The Girls at the Kingfisher Club was a delightful read. If it sounds like your kind of thing, I recommend you check it out.
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