Genevieve Valentine | Fiction
I can’t quite say why I enjoyed this book so much. The story is not that compelling (more on that below) but the writing is just delightful. Valentine has a style that is easy to read and enjoy.
The story centers on Jo, the eldest of 12 sisters who live in the upper floors of a Fifth Avenue townhome in the 1920s. Their mother died after giving birth to #12, and the girls now live with their controlling and extremely distant father, who is profoundly disappointed that his wife never gave him a son. Actually, their father has abandoned the sisters in all ways except to provide food and housing. As a matter of fact – hard to believe – a number of the sisters have never met their father. Jo is usually the go-between. When he wants to communicate something, he sends one of the house servants up to ask Jo to come to his study.
Jo teaches her eleven sisters to dance and for eight fairy-tale years they sneak out at midnight to explore the speakeasies of New York City, where they dance to their hearts' content, never giving their names to anyone.
The sisters call Jo “The General.” An apt name for their substitute mother! I wonder if Jo is in some way reminiscent of Jo in Little Women. (I did my compulsory read of Little Women as a young girl, but the book I read over and over again every summer that still sits on my shelf today, is Little Men. I wonder what this presages about my life and career?)
An example of Genevieve Valentine's delightful writing is how she names the two sets of twins in the family, Hattie & Mattie and Rose & Lily. An oddity is her considerable overuse of parentheses. I never quite understood why so many of her sentences are in parentheses.
I gave this novel three hearts instead of four because it isn’t a “must read.” I wouldn’t talk about it on a hiking trail with my friends and proclaim, “You must read this!” It is an interesting and enjoyable short book. I reserve the right to add to this post after we discuss The Girls at the Kingfisher Club at book club this week! For a snowy weekend by the fireplace, I recommend this read!