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. 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 to the Swan 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. Suddenly Jo must weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself.
Valentine creates a pleasing tale similar to The Twelve Princesses by The Brothers Grimm.
I admit I was taken with this story from the beginning. I furiously turned every page with my curiosity and attention fully piqued. Needless to say I devoured this book in a matter of hours. Besides capturing my attention I completely adored the main protagonist Jo. Her protective nature, the way she diligently guards and cares for her sisters. She is ingenious, clever and ever self-sacrificing as she attempts to give her sisters a ray of happiness outside of their ‘prison like’ existence. The other sisters were appealing but Jo clearly took center stage as well as winning my heart. Valentine described speakeasies in great detail – you hear the clanging of liquor bottles, the fear of police raids, the thick cigarette smoke clinging in the air, feeling the beat of the music, the heat from the bodies as they dance the night all while keeping bold males roving hands off their person long into the wee hours. Excellent depiction of the Jazz Age and its glory.
Early on it is understood the girls fear their father, we experience his distance and coolness however, he is portrayed as a chimera. Yes, he isolates himself from his daughters, still I wish his character was developed more so his presence and fearful side could be felt and appear ‘real’ to the reader.
The themes of freedom, love, sacrifice and sisterhood including choices made this modern fairy tale a joy. Excellent way to escape, fun story, loads of topics for discussion.