“Dressed up in the thrill and sparkle of the Roaring Twenties, the classic fairy tale of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ has never been more engrossing or delightful. Valentine’s fresh, original style and choice of setting make this a fairy tale reimagining not to be missed” (Library Journal, starred review).
Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s Manhattan townhouse and into the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.
The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they've come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid, separated, and Jo is thrust face-to-face with someone from her past: a bootlegger named Tom whom she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Suddenly Jo must balance not only the needs of her father and eleven sisters, but her own as well.
With The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, award-winning writer Genevieve Valentine takes her superb storytelling gifts to new heights, joining the leagues of such Jazz Age depicters as Amor Towles and Paula McLain, and penning a dazzling tale about love, sisterhood, and freedom.
Set in Jazz Age Manhattan, Valentine pays homage in her second novel (after Mechanique) to "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," a Brothers Grimm story. The book's imagery has a cinematic sweep, but the narrative itself is less dazzling. Jo Hamilton, called the General by her 11 younger sisters, does her best to shield them from their wealthy, distant father. Disappointed that his wife did not give him any sons, he houses the girls on the top floors of their mansion, away from their mother, to be raised by nannies and each other. Jo begins to sneak her sisters out to speakeasies around town where "the Princesses," as they are eventually dubbed, anonymously dance the night away. Jo is hardened by the responsibility of keeping the girls safe during their outings and protecting them from their father, who would marry them off to cold and uncaring men like himself, and she stops dancing after meeting a man she thinks she could love. The narrative unfolds from her perspective, and though Jo's matter-of-fact attitude doesn't get in the way of Valentine's lush period detail, it unfortunately keeps the reader at an emotional distance for too much of the novel.