The Girls At the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine blends Prohibition nightclubs and the Twelve Dancing Princesses for a tale about sisterhood, loyalty, and happy endings.
In 1920s Manhattan, twelve sisters are kept trapped in the attic by their father, recalling Twelve Dancing Princesses, and highlighting their position as sidelined and powerless women. Jo, the oldest sister, is the General, the boss of eleven younger sisters, and the organizer of their midnight adventures. The girls all learn to dance and love sneaking out to Prohibition era nightclubs. For readers, it starts out impossible to keep track of all the princesses, but in a surprisingly short time, their personalities separate and it’s impossible to get the sisters confused.
Valentine is particularly good at blending the mundane and the fabulous, and The Girls At The Kingfisher Club is a wonderful magical realism romp through the roaring twenties. A delightful period piece / fairy tale blend would be quite enough, but then rumors of twelve dancing sisters reach the Hamilton father, who decides to marry them off as quickly as possible to avoid any more embarrassing rumors. Jo takes desperate measures to protect the sisters from being married off and ending up in twelve different attics.
Each sister’s storyline is satisfying, true to their different personalities, as they try to find different forms of safety between the nightclubs the girls have known and a daytime New Manhattan they’ve never seen. Jo’s arc combines Prohibition bootlegging, sisterly love, and a bittersweet letting go of her General ways. A fairy tale ends with living happily ever after, and The Girls At The Kingfisher Club explores how one could possibly live happily, after growing up trapped in an attic.
Overall, a vibrant, magical story of Manhattan, dancing, and building a family in The Girls At The Kingfisher Club.