Flappers and Fairy Tales: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

Twelve sisters escape through dancing, although their controlling father and the laws of the Roaring Twenties constantly threaten to keep them from finding true freedom. | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Christmas is finally here, and the New Year is just around the corner.  If you’re looking for a magical, beautiful book to help you while away the lazy days (or if you need an excuse to escape from your family for a while), you must check out The Girls at the Kingfisher Club.

This book by Genevieve Valentine is a retelling of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, set in the Roaring Twenties.  The Jazz Age atmosphere is incredible–full of speakeasies, the Charleston, and sequins galore.  Jo is the oldest of twelve sisters, born to Joseph Hamilton and his submissive wife.  With twelve daughters and no male heir, Hamilton locks up his daughters in the upper floors of his huge Fifth Avenue town house, where they pass their lives, sheltered from the outside world.  When Jo (called the General by her half-respectful, half-resentful siblings) realizes she is losing her sisters, she gives them as much freedom as she can offer: A few nights a week, Jo takes the girls to a speakeasy where they can dance the night away, drinking champagne and watching men fall in love with them.  As the younger girls grow older, their numbers swell, and the group of girls becomes known for their impeccable dance skills and their cold hearts.  Jo has cautioned all the girls to never give their names to anyone they meet, and anyone who falls behind because of a broken heart gets left behind.

For years, the girls receive tastes of freedom as they dance, but one day, Jo is summoned to her father’s office to hear the horrible news: Each daughter will now be married off as pure, unspoiled goods.  Frantic, Jo scrambles to keep her sisters in line, even as they resent her domineering attitude and Jo begins to wonder if she has become her father’s tool after all.

I could go on and on about this story (and I did, to my husband, which he is used to by now), but really, you just need to read it.  It is truly magical, and not in the Disney World kind of way.  This book is dark.  The girls’ father is distant and controlling–some of the girls have never even met him, and even Jo has never seen the front door of the house she has lived in all her life.  Their freedom comes only under cover of night and is fraught with the danger of police raids and heartbreaks.  Jo does her best to care for her sisters, but she knows she’s losing their affection and loyalty by constantly being the demanding General.  The writing sparkles just like the sequins of the dancers (I looooved the parenthetical comments and explanations).  Although a few of the sisters are, of necessity, better fleshed-out than others, each sister has an individual personality and desires for her life.  The story is fantastic–I finished it in three hours.  Take my word for it: You must read this book.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

Have you read any must-read books this year?  Let me know so I can add them to my holiday list!

About Monica

I am obsessed with all things books. I'm a music teacher by day and a freelance editor by night.

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