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The Girls at the Kingfisher Club: A Novel Hardcover – June 3, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Hamilton sisters live a double life—caged in their house by day, they break free at night to hit the dance floors of New York. Following her debut novel, Mechanique (2011), Valentine offers this fanciful reimagining, set in the Roaring Twenties, of the fairy tale of the 12 dancing princesses. The princes have been replaced by bartenders and bootleggers, and the girls wear out catalog-ordered shoes. Their dominating father has kept them shut up at home, virtual prisoners, for their entire lives. When he gets wind of what they’ve been doing, he works to find them more permanent positions as wives—whether or not they like it. The narrative is simple, as befits a modern fairy tale, and the characters are drawn in broad strokes, each dominated by one identifiable personality trait. When the novel shines, it does so by juxtaposing the tension of the imprisoned daughters’ plight against the gimlets and glitter of the underground dance halls they frequent. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is like a jittery Charleston—loose, fast, and fun. --Bridget Thoreson


"A mesmerizing, surreal retelling... Valentine’s dreamlike narrative brings the Brothers Grimm tale alive with intrigue and gritty descriptions of the Roaring Twenties." (The Washington Post)

“I'm completely confident in stating, without an ounce of hyperbole, that this is the best fairy tale retelling I've ever read... The beating heart of this book is a love of dance and a love of sisters.... Even more than the characters, their voices, or the sharp quiet slicing of the understated prose, what I loved about this book was its own tense dance with its source materials... There is so much more I want to say about this book: about the ways in which women protect and support each other; about the way they feel like antidotes to The Great Gatsby's brittle ciphers; about the pitch-perfect dialogue; about the dancing. I can't stop re-reading this book for the dancing and the fierce, scalding love the sisters have for it." (NPR)

“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))

“The novel shines… The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is like a jittery Charleston—loose, fast, and fun.” (Booklist)

"Valentine’s creative retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” is as vibrant and colorful as the era — so evocative, well drawn, well cast and well played that readers will be enthralled. This is a story of sisterhood, a passion for freedom and love that will resonate with many women. The novel calls readers to cheer on these girls as they strive for independence, and Valentine’s ability to make them each distinct and appealing sets this tale apart. Simply a delight to read!" (Romantic Times, 4 1/2 stars)

"This unexpected fairytale, deftly shifted into the age of prohibition, becomes a gorgeous and bewitching novel." (Scott Westerfeld, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Uglies and Afterworlds)

“Delightful and suspenseful by turns, this story of tyranny, pluck, fierce love and even fiercer responsibility is set in a New York of spangles and speakeasies, fox-trots and Charlestons. Valentine retains the shimmer and shadows of the fairytale that underlies her novel, even as she transforms it.” (Christina Schwarz, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Drowning Ruth)

"Valentine’s novel has glamour in spades, evocative of the Jazz Age’s fashions and dance crazes and the dark side of prohibition." (Historical Novel Society)

“Valentine raises the novel above the ordinary...Impressive." (The New York Times)

"Has a cinematic sweep... [and] lush period detail." (Publishers Weekly)

"The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is as fast-tempoed and intoxicating as a night at a Jazz Age speakeasy, and as enchanting as a good old-fashioned fairy tale. Genevieve Valentine gives us a dozen dazzling sisters it's impossible not to root for." (Lois Leveen, author of Juliet's Nurse and The Secrets of Mary Bowser)

“Genevieve Valentine has turned out an extraordinary and marvelous new thing from very old clothes. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a sumptuous rendering of one of my favorite fairy tales.” (Kelly Link, author of Pretty Monsters and Magic for Beginners)

"I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and stayed up late to reach the end. Genevieve Valentine resurrects 1920s New York to bring an inventive tale of shifting social mores, family bonds, and heart-wrenching choices.” (Ronlyn Domingue, author of The Mercy of Thin Air)

"Intoxicating... Stands apart thanks to dynamic characters and a resoundingly well-rendered setting." (Tor.com)

Unique and elegant... An artful book that asks important questions about art and creation that you'll be left pondering long after you've closed the last page." (io9.com)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476739080
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476739083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Genevieve Valentine's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Journal of Mythic Arts, Fantasy Magazine, and Apex, and in the anthologies Federations, The Way of the Wizard, Running with the Pack, Teeth, and more. Her nonfiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Weird Tales, Tor.com, and Fantasy Magazine.

Her first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is forthcoming from Prime Books.

Her appetite for bad movies is insatiable, a tragedy she tracks on her blog at genevievevalentine.com. She is currently working on a formula to evaluate the awfulness of any given film, a scale that will be measured in Julians to honor Julian Sands, who has bravely uttered some of the worst lines ever filmed,in some of the worst wigs ever made.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Loosely based on the fairy tale, updated to the 20s and Prohibition, Jo Hamilton and her 11 younger sisters follow her, one or two at a time as they grow old enough, to end up many nights at the popular speakeasy, the Kingfisher Club, because they almpst never get out (really, really never) and they love dancing. Their rich, selfish and repressive father has relegated them to the upper floors of their townhouse. Their mother died long since, and for reasons never quite explained satisfactorily, their father keeps them practically prisoners, close at home, but mostly ignores them. Their only outlet has become sneaking out to dance several nights a week. They become known as the princesses, and they never tell anyone who they are or where they come from.
The game begins to unravel when an ad appears in the newspaper, seeking information about the mysterious, apparently socially respectable young women who dance in nightclubs around town. Then Jo really panics, because their father suddenly wants to marry a few of them off to men of his own choosing and asks Jo to plan a dinner party where the men and a couple of the sisters can meet.
It's really amazing that Genevieve Valentine almost pulled off making all 12 sisters separate and believable personalities. I got them mixed up a little, but it was practically an impossible task to build a story line for all of them.
This was a great read, quite an unexpected theme, although there seemed to be a couple of plot holes. How could anyone, even in the 1920s, dress acceptably, and sometimes pay for cabs, on the $4 a month that was their allowance? And the father was mostly a cardboard jerk, controlling and selfish Well, there's always suspension of disbelief, and I really liked the book. I read this book through NetGalley, and was really glad they shared it with me.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a quiet story set in 1927 Prohibition-era Manhattan. It develops slowly as we meet the twelve daughters of a rich self-absorbed man whose wife expired after producing a dozen children but no heirs. Father leaves his daughters on the upper floors of his mansion to an indifferent staff, but one very committed daughter and surrogate mother, Jo whom the sisters call General, who accepts the responsibility of creating a life for her sisters. Father has cut off tutors and education to save money, so when Jo gets the opportunity to learn different dances she teaches them to her sisters. For eight years they sneak out of the house after midnight in cabs from in front of the house. It's not clear when Father clues in or if just doesn't care, but when he does he decides it's time to cut his expenses and arrange profitable marriages for his girls - he certainly has enough of them, some whom have only seen him a couple times a year.

Father calls on Jo to help him make these marriage arrangements and that's when the rebellion starts. When it's clear that her sisters will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, she asks him to arrange dinners and let her sisters meet their suitors. When the plan goes array and sociopath Father threatens to institutional the whole lot of them, they scramble for the four winds.

I loved this look at speakeasy and dance hall life. People were decent, just looking for an evening out. I struggled to believe that the three sisters who escaped to Hollywood became successful just four months after their escape. Would they have already made it into news publications? Color me cynical - sorry. And I could have done with a few less sisters to keep track of. That said, it was a nice fresh look at a period that is usually only depicted in mob scenes.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I am a fan of both historical fiction set in the Jazz age and fairy tales, but I didn't realize that this was a retelling of "The 12 Dancing Princesses" until I after I had finished it and read a few other reviews. That being said, the story did seem oddly familiar to me--but in a good way.

The premise on its own is a little outlandish--a man with 12 daughters, some of whom he has never met, keeps them locked up in the attic and, at night, they all sneak out to go dancing. However, I think the vague familiarity with the fairy tale (even though I didn't realize it) made it easy for me to buy the premise.

I did really enjoy this book. The character of Jo was very well written and, while most of the other sisters don't get an in depth treatment (because, you know, there are 12 of them!), they were still interesting to me. That being said, I will admit that I did get a few of them mixed up from time to time--but I think anyone would because there are 12 of them!

The story does move along at a good clip. In fact, my only complaint about this book is that I wish it had gone deeper at times. Still, it was a fun read and definitely worth a place on beach read lists for the summer!
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Format: Kindle Edition
In 1920s New York, a woman fights to keep her sisters safe from the world and their father. Their crime? Dancing in the underground speakeasies popular with anyone who wants to forget the day’s cares and enjoy a drink in the day of prohibition. But when the police raid one of the nightclubs where the girls go, suddenly their innocent pastime threatens to unravel their entire lives. Genevieve Valentine offers readers a new take on the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” in her delightful novel, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club.

Josephine “Jo” Hamilton spends her days trying to keep her sisters entertained. She’s not worried about the nights. Since Jo discovered dancing at the age of 10 and snuck out for the first time at the age of 19 to take her sisters dancing, the girls have spent almost every night dazzling partners across the floor and wearing out their shoes.

Jo didn’t ask for the responsibility. Growing up in the early twentieth century, she feels the acute pressure of the need for a male heir in the family. But though her mother seems to spend most of her time either pregnant or delivering babies, no boys come.

The years bring Jo sisters instead; eleven, to be exact. By the time their mother dies, Jo already knows that her father sees the girls as a burden. More than a burden, he almost demands that the girls spend their time shut in the house. He will not, he says, risk the reputation of the Hamilton name.

The girls resent their father’s boorish behavior, and when Louise (Lou) threatens to run away Jo knows she has to do something to keep the girls at home and keep them safe. Yes, they live in an unbearable situation, but if Jo keeps the girls together she can watch all of them. So she takes them dancing.
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