The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

The Girls at the Kingfisher ClubWhile I love the idea of fairy tale retellings, I also tend to be skeptical of picking them up. Some focus too heavily on dramatizing the originals rather than putting a unique spin on things. Others go the opposite route, checking off a few "evil stepmother" or "big bad wolf" boxes while telling a story that I wouldn't have recognized without a blurb citing the book's inspiration.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club isn't like that.

It's a version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses that sends its title characters out, night after night, into the dance halls of Prohibition-era New York. They dance and they drink and they never give names, and above all, they stick together. It's the only real freedom they know, but even these secret nights out are carefully regulated by eldest sister, Jo. When their father, largely absent from their lives despite living in the same house, announces that he'll be arranging their marriages, everything changes.

Jo is the protagonist, but her sisters aren't treated like props; they're differentiated enough that I could soon tell them apart. The bonds between the girls are at the heart of the book, making it a far more satisfying read than it might have been if Jo's sisters seemed less important than her complicated relationship with the man who learns their secret.

I also liked the social elements of the story, especially the idea that these young women are safer as a flock of gin-joint princesses than as respectable daughters who can be hidden away or married to strangers at their father's whim. The clubs they visit are hardly risk-free, but most of those threats can be navigated by twelve girls who look out for each other. Their numbers give them power, and this controlled exposure to the seedier side of life works in their favor later on.

It's a smart, stylish book with some heart-wrenching twists, and I thought it was a really fun read.

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