The Girls at the Kingfisher Club – Genevieve Valentine
Washington Square Press, 2014
In a 1920s speakeasy, where people of all creeds and classes come for illegal liquor and scandalous dancing, it’s not uncommon to leave your name at the door. All anyone knows about the ‘Princesses’ is that they’ll dance all night, and they’re not to be crossed. The twelve girls are a beautiful, wild enigma. The eldest sister, Jo, has worked hard to keep it that way. If the truth ever came out, it would destroy their fragile freedom. But how long can she hold it all in balance?
I think I may have read more retellings of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ over the past few years than any other fairy tale, and have written one myself, so it is a story I have particularly strong opinions about. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club lived up to all my expectations. It’s tightly woven and beautifully written, with a bittersweet, dreamlike atmosphere. I have a particular love for retellings that successfully relocate the story to an entirely different time and place, and 1920s New York was an incredible fit for this one. Working with a necessarily large cast of characters, Valentine managed to give each sister a strong individuality, as well as fleshing out a group of fully formed secondary characters in what’s really quite a short book. I did not want to put it down; it’s one of the best fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read, and I know I’ll read it again.