My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’ve been looking forward to reading The Girls at the Kingfisher Club for some time now. I have a real fondness for books that reinvent fairy tales and a Prohibition age re-telling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses seemed intriguing. Having said that, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club was a bit of a mixed experience for me. I loved the scenes at the speakeasies where the Princesses spend their nights on the dance floor but I think the story suffered in the way author, Genevieve Valentine, characterized the princesses’ home life and their father.
** Spoiler Warning **
I could understand a father who was strict and restrictive, keeping his daughters at home and under his thumb. And I would expect in this sort of story to see a father who was controlling, harsh, and who expects total obedience from his daughters but the book took this to a bizarre extreme that it occasionally pulled me out of the story. The girls never leave the house and are not allowed near windows lest outsiders realize that they exist. Other than the eldest daughter, Jo, who is occasionally summoned to receive her father’s instructions, most of the girls have never met their father and they only find out that their mother died when Jo sneaks downstairs and finds her mother’s bedroom empty. Mr. Hamilton is so pathological about people finding out how many daughters he has that when he finds out about the girls sneaking out, he doesn’t just take steps to to stop the girls from going out but actually attempts to have them locked up in an asylum. In this, the story crosses from The Twelve Dancing Princesses into Bluebeard territory in a way that just seemed too much for my tastes.
Having said that, the book really comes into its own after the girls are forced to scatter in order to escape their father and Jo, who has focused all her energy and attention on protecting and governing her sisters, is finally free to figure out life for herself. Watching the princesses survive and thrive as independent women was extremely satisfying and (almost) makes up for the over-the-top-ness of the earlier parts of the book. When’s all said and done, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club has its flaws but made a pretty decent addition to my summer reading list.