So there’s this fairytale about twelve dancing princesses, right. And so Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is an adaptation of that, but it’s not your typical Dark Fairytale Retelling, not at all.

Mostly because it’s not even a fantasy. While it’s clearly inspired by the fairytale and takes story beats from it, it’s straight-up historical fiction set in jazz age New York. The titular girls are twelve sisters who are trapped (somewhat implausibly, but maybe more plausible than I would hope) by a controlling father, who secretly escape at nights to go dancing at speakeasies. The story humanizes and makes real the characters from the fairy tale, and as much as anything else, it’s about the sisters’ relationship to each other and to their constrained world.

As for that world, the Prohibition-era setting is wonderfully atmospheric and mirrors the themes that the novel is exploring, about constraint and living on the edges of society and what it means to be free—because it’s not only the girls who must keep their activities secret, it’s the clubs themselves.

This is a well-written novel that’s not quite like anything else I’ve read; it looks like the rest of Valentine’s books are also unique, which is cool. Recommended, and I’ll be checking out her other stuff.


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