3 April 2016

Poolside Cactus: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine

Taking full advantage of my snow bird parent's southern abode, I celebrated March Break beneath the inadequate shade of cacti. As far as my eyes could gleam, the world was about to impale me. Days were quietly spent with morning discussions of snakes that would bleed into pool afternoons, to zenith with star gazing. The kid has an intense relationship with deadly snakes, what can one do but encourage. 

Amongst the busy green spaces of downtown Toronto, my home is the Yang to this desert Yin. Vitalized by orange blossom infused air, and cloudless skies that stretched beyond the mountain peaks, I read. Of the months of 2016, my reading ventures have been nothing but spectacular; there is something to be said in planning. My usual book forays are a mindless romp through blog recommendations jostled up with random choices. Wholly uninterested in the Hugo/Nebula's, I inaccurately presumed that all awards were overrun with similar nomination sentiments. Upon discovering  The Kitschies which in turn directed me to the Mothership, The BSFAs I finally feel more at home with the award scene. Does this mean I have become a more hardened, balls to the walls SF reader? Not so much, I like what I like, with or without the internet fever of acceptance. The Kitschies/BSFAs shortlists act as refreshing guides, offering specimens that I would never have known to read. I am simply not deep enough into the SF publishing world to know what I am supposed to know. This girl is not the geek you think she is. 

What matters is knowing what I know, which happens to be a good book. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine is that book. A retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club imbues the old German fairy-tale with hooch. It takes quite a book to enchant a frozen Canadian freshly transplanted from a grey-dipped landscape to blooming cacti soaked in blessed heat. Wanting nothing from life but to breathe, motherhood broke through this zen-like state bringing me firmly to pool-side present. As I life-guarded the snake charmer in my life, I quickly was in need of a book. 

Maybe it was the glare of the water or possibly the mid-afternoon cocktails, but The Girls at the Kingfisher Club enthralled me. New York in the 1920s was a city of passions. With the horrors of WWI fresh, and Prohibition locking the United States into a morality play, twelve sisters danced into the early hours. Jo, the eldest, wished to escape her father's house, but with the death of their mother she donned the matriarch hat, offering a beacon of safety. As General, Jo's nightly call of taxis to leave at midnight became their call to arms. With the dark allure of the speakeasy, and an endless parade of young men, the sequestered sisters had reasons to live. 

Valentine brought forth the rush of those dangerous times, soaking the pages with flapper fever. Her poetic tale provides a keyhole into the allure of hidden dance halls, illegal jag juice, and the wanted disregard for societal constraints. It is the timeless story of freedom, draped in beads, bobs and champagne, all throbbing to the beat of the Charleston. My copy bears the waterlogged marks of pool-side splashes and sunshine joy. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is the redemptive story you have been waiting to read. 

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