Book Review: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

I just stayed up waaay too late finishing this book. Even though I was tired, even though I had work in the morning. I couldn’t put it down. I either found out what happened to Jo and her sisters, or I had a sleepless night wondering about it! Either way, I wasn’t going to sleep much, so I may as well satisfy my curiosity.

To satisfy your curiosity, here is the blurb!

Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. (in case you don’t know what this is, in the 1920’s alcohol was illegal. The only way you could drink was to go to a night club, or speakeasy) Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.

The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud (once) to the Swan (once) and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid, separated, and Jo is thrust face-to-face with someone from her past: a bootlegger named Tom whom she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. (yeees, loved this part and the backstory that came with it!) Suddenly Jo must weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself. (yeah yeah, it wasn’t that hard of a decision to make, stop playing it up for tension)

With The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, award-winning writer Genevieve Valentine takes her superb storytelling gifts to new heights, joining the leagues of such Jazz Age depicters as Amor Towles and Paula McClain, and penning a dazzling tale about love, sisterhood, and freedom. (mostly sisterhood, slightly less freedom, and not really about love at all)

This book would not be every ones cup of tea. It moves slowly, even as it is building to the climax. There are a few bits of quick action, but they disappear as soon as they come. There is a lot of backstory, especially in the first half of the book.

I enjoyed it, I thought the backstory and flash backs were woven in well. It was a flow of thought that made sense. Rather than wondering how the character had gotten from point A to point B.

Most of the story is from Jo’s point of view. A great choice, because she is the one making the decisions and pushing the plot along. Yes, there are other people making decisions around her, and doing things that affect her, but she is the one that moves the plot.

Jo is the perfect illustration of an active protagonist. One who acts rather than reacts. When her father decides to attempt to marry them all off, she tries to get on top of the situation. She is trying to keep her sisters safe, and knows that to do that she will need to control as much of this as possible.

She is a strong character, without being able to beat up anyone who crosses her path. She doesn’t go against the ideas of the time, much anyway, she is strong enough without having to push against the grain. Which, honestly, is a relief. A breath of fresh air in a world full of heroines that can do everything. Save the guy, flirt with the guy, and get the guy. She has her points of weakness, and learns what they are.

A main theme of the book is that Jo can not do everything. Her sisters are their own people, who must make their own decisions. She learns, slowly, that the more she tries to control them, the easier it will be to lose them.

However, this book was not focused solely on Jo alone. There are twelve girls. Twelve characters each with their own motivations and dreams. Somehow, Genevieve Valentine made each one of the girls come alive. They all got a little snippet of the story that wove itself into the plot as a whole, she didn’t leave you wondering why the plot had stopped in order to characterize.

I loved the characters, Jo mostly, but like I said. The plot is slow. I enjoyed the slow pace that explored the ins and outs of Jo’s decisions. However, not that much happens in the first bit of the book. I never did feel like the plot was dragging though. It slowly picked up steam in a very satisfying way, ending in a BIG event that shakes everything up. Then is all calms back down again for a while.

I did feel like the end dragged a bit though. It was a good wrap up, but it took such a long time from what felt like the climax was to the end. It was a good end, an end that caused a sigh of happiness. But a long ending, so both good and bad I guess?

I would recommend this book to late teens and up. There are a couple of content issues, such as a romantic scene (mostly off screen, but it still happened), and a couple cuss words.

Over all, I would give this book 4 stars. * * * *

What have you guys been reading lately? Anything good? Anything gag worthy? I would love to make my tbr list bigger! 😉

Shaina Merrick

Book Review: Belinda

I think Goodreads is about to despair of me. I forget to add books that I am reading. So I am often playing catch up. Or there will be books that I have been reading for a better part of the month until I finally get around to either actually finished it. Or telling Goodreads that I am finished with it. Such was the case of Belinda.

It took me the better part of a month to read this book. Partly because the print was extremely tiny. (tiny print is a ploy to get busy people to think freakishly long books are small, and so pick them up. They only realize their fatal mistake when it is too late to go back.) Partly because there were so. Many. Conversations. You may think that dialogue is easy to read. Not if the dialogue needs to be carefully followed to be understood!

Anyway. Enough complaining. I got through it, and am here to explain to you why I marched on through the tiny print.

The lively comedy of this novel (only if you get all the jokes! Regency wit is something else!) in which a young woman comes of age amid the distractions and temptations of London high society belies the challenges it poses to the conventions of courtship, the dependence of women, and the limitations of domesticity. (I’m really not sure where they got the ‘limitations’ idea. The married ladies do more than the single people do!) Contending with the perils and the varied cast of characters of the marriage market, Belinda strides resolutely toward independence. (Independence of heart mostly. Her fortune is only just big enough for her to be truly independent) Admired by her contemporary, Jane Austen, and later by Thackeray and Turgenev, Edgeworth tackles issues of gender and race in a manner at once comic and thought-provoking. (True, I enjoyed this aspect of the novel.) The 1802 text used in this edition also confronts the difficult and fascinating issues of racism and mixed marriage, which Edgeworth toned down in later editions. (All novelists eventually succumb to public opinion. Unless they are brave warriors willing to be social outcasts.)

Interested yet? I will admit. It is not a great synopsis. It says nothing about the love triangle, or quack doctors, or even my favorite character. But then again, most synopsis for classics are terrible. They either say too much or too little. The person in charge of writing them should be soundly scolded.

But back to Belinda! The main character of this charming novel is who it is named after. Belinda is our heroine trying to make sense of London society. She is guided through it by Lady Delacour. Though guided may be too strong a word for it. We will get to the particulars of that in a moment.

Belinda has been taught by her Aunt Stanhope to look for the richest husband possible. And then catch him by any means possible. Mrs. Stanhope is a renowned matchmaker, and all men are in terror of being caught by one of her nieces. Quite the barrier to poor Belinda, who has never quite bought into what her aunt has said, but is still suffering the consequences of her aunts bad matches. She soon realizes that if she wants to be respected, not just liked, she must ignore all of her aunts advice and find her own way. Good luck dear, for the example you have before you is a bad one.

It is soon after Belinda has a break with her aunt that she realizes that Lady Delacour is not the best person to model her behavior after. Good job for realizing that a flirt is not a good person to emulate. How many pages did it take for you to realize that?

But at the same time, she learns Lady Delacours secret. A secret she has hidden from everyone except for her servant, and now Belinda. Lady Delacour is dying, and instead of seeking medical help. She is determined to live as fast as she can before her time runs out. In case you were wondering, it doesn’t work too well. It only leads to pain and misery as the novel clearly shows.

But where, you may be wondering, is the love story I was promised? Well, about that….

Yes, Belinda is a love story. A very slow moving love story full of side tracks, miscommunications, and a comedy of errors. Yet the book is more about the friendship between her and Lady Delacour.

Lady Delacour is the force that moves the novel. While Belinda is more of a passive heroine. Content to let things happen around her until she must act. Lady Delacour on the other hand, is one of the main movers and shakers of the novel. She is the one who intrigues to get her two favorite people together. It is through her that the last mystery is solved and everyone can live happily ever after.

Yet before you think Belinda is boring and never does anything. Let me ease your mind. Belinda is the one who reforms Lady Delacour. Through her steady friendship she convinces Lady Delacour that there are better things to live for. That perhaps she has not wasted her entire life. Belinda is the one who reconciles the Lady to her daughter, and later to her husband. Feats that seemed impossible at the beginning of the novel.

It is Belinda and Lady Delacours friendship that moves and shapes that entire novel.

But have no fear! There is a love story, and it does have a happy ending. Contrary to all popular belief. (popular being me, myself, and I. I haven’t found anyone who has read it yet)

What I really like about this love story is that the hero is no Mr. Darcy. Unless you can imagine Mr. Darcy with enough flaws for a long list, a tendency to do before he thought, and being an extrovert. No? Then let me introduce you to Mr. Clarence Hervey. The young man who at the beginning of the novel has some bad friends, and thinks he is the most amazing person ever. Not quite marriageable material yet.

Thankfully, he grows up. Which includes ditching his bad friends and finding new ones. It also includes falling in love with the right girl. Instead of a silly one. (dude, you had bad taste)

It can sound odd that I liked this hero so much, even with his flaws. But you see, I liked him because of his flaws. He was interesting because he wasn’t perfect. I was more apt to like him and root for him because he was struggling uphill to make the right choices. Sometimes he failed, but that only made me root for him harder. Ready to see him get back up and try again.

So by the time Mr. Hervey and Belinda finally got together, it wasn’t an inevitable conclusion. It was a sigh a relief and a smile to see two characters I liked triumphing over adversity.

So if you are going to read it or any reason, read it for the characters. Read it for the complicated, multifacted relationships the characters have with each other. Most of all, read it for Lady Delacour. She is hilarious.

That, was a ridiculously long review. By this point you are either sick of the entire book or itching to read it. (sorrynotsorry) Let me know if you do end up reading it though. Quick tip, keep Google handy while you read it. There are a couple things that even the footnotes don’t explain. (like what on earth an E O table is….)

Anyway. Happy reading!

Shaina Merrick