Book Review: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

If you’re familiar with the basic premise of the classic tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, then you’ve got an idea of what The Girls at the Kingfisher Club  by Genevieve Valentine is all about. In her enchanting tale of family and sisterhood, Valentine has transported the twelve dancing sisters to the 1920s prohibition era. There she weaves a tale about a set of sisters who’ve been banished by their father to the upper levels of their New York City townhouse. Their mother is deceased.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine: A Story of Strong Family Bonds

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club: A NovelThe Girls at the Kingfisher Club: A NovelQuick breakdown: Why you should read The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is the ultimate story about familial bonds and the love that develops between sisters. Set in the 1920s Prohibition Era, the book brings a fun and unique historical element to a relatable story of sisterly love. The story makes it easy for any sister or mother to relate.

In conclusion: This emotional and heart-wrenching story is absolutely worth the read.

Read on for a more in-depth discussion about The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine.


More On Why You Should Read The Girls At the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

As you can guess, the twelve sisters escape each evening for a wild time dancing the night away in speakeasies around town. The sisters are led by Jo, the oldest sibling, who acts more like a mother or a guardian than the eldest sister.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

12 Dancing Princesses by Arthur Rackham.

Nicknamed the General, Jo has taken it upon herself to make sure that her sisters are kept safe, both in the townhouse and when the girls are out dancing in the speakeasies. Jo takes her responsibility as protector extremely seriously, and throughout the first half of the book it was easy to recognize her feelings as a form of mom guilt. Jo makes huge sacrifices to keep her sisters safe, and at times she resents them for the sacrifices she’s had to make. In turn, she feels guilty for wanting anything for herself. Time and again she demonstrates the importance of putting the needs of the group ahead of her own needs.

Take this quote from page 149, for example. It gives a good glimpse into some of the anger and resentment Jo feels at having to fill the role of mother when, in reality, she should only have to act as an older sister:

“Then eleven pairs of eyes were fixed on Jo, and for the space of a breath she felt the impossible weigh of protecting any of them, let alone all of them, and hated their mother for dying.”

As the story wears on, we learn that Jo has given up her one love in order to keep her sisters safe from their domineering father. Before long, Jo makes a sacrifice so huge that it’s shocking, and in turn, she reveals her true self. The revelation totally makes her easy to like.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine: The Character Who Makes the Book Go

For most of the book, Valentine attempts to portray Jo as a tough and bossy figure with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. While Jo is definitely a tough cookie, it becomes apparent that she’s more sensitive and less cold-hearted than some of the younger sisters would believe. Jo puts the good of her sisters ahead of herself, and before long, Jo has to make some big decisions. Toward the end of the book her motherly intuition is really put to the test, and Jo passes the test wonderfully, though the decisions she has to make are painful.

By that point, Jo has realized that even her youngest sisters are growing up. She recognizes that she’s taught them the skills they need to survive in the world. Jo knows she has to let them find their own way. She has to step back and trust that the tough girls she’s raised will make the right choices for themselves. I think, as mothers, we could all learn a lot from the way Jo encourages  her littlest sisters to explore the world and find their own paths. It hurts Jo and it’s not what she really wants to do, but she knows it’s what’s best for the others.

That’s true love. And it’s fantastic parenting, despite the fact that Jo may not be a parent in the traditional sense.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club Book Cover The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Genevieve Valentine
Atria Books
June 3, 2014

From award-winning author Genevieve Valentine, a "gorgeous and bewitching" (Scott Westerfeld) reimagining of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses as flappers during the Roaring Twenties in Manhattan.

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 townhouse to await 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 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 weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself.

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