The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

By Genevieve Valentine

Book CoverI’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Genevieve Valentine. I love both her blog and her fictional writing, but am continually surprised by how different they are. She is so funny on her blog; her recaps of the television show “Penny Dreadful” were as much a delight as the show itself. Her books and short stories, however, are almost unrelenting melancholy. Her novels are not hugely long or densely worded, but she somehow gives everything a sort of portentous double-meaning which gives the narratives a heavy tone. It is such a vague feeling in the text that I’m struggling to describe it.

Anyway, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a retelling of the folktale of the twelve dancing princesses, set in New York City during Prohibition. (The titular Kingfisher Club is the dancing girls’ speakeasy of choice.) The Twelve Dancing Princesses was not a favorite story of mine as a kid, so I only vaguely recalled it. What is just sort of casual misogyny in the original story (of course the king locks up the twelve princesses in a tower – that’s just what you do with princesses in fairy tales), gets fleshed out here into true cruelty in the utmost neglect in a real-world setting. This builds up a strong sense of suspense throughout the novel, as the consequences are suddenly more real.

It made me cry several times in the privacy of my home, but it also, embarrassingly, made me laugh out loud on the metro.

—Anna

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