Jan 16, 2013

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of HerOwn Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Absolutely delightful. I don't know why it took me so long to read it, as it was on my TBR shelf from the moment I saw the title - being a fan of the absurdly long title, such as Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - but I will be forever grateful to my coworker Roger who finally literally pressed it upon me. Much like the content of the books that have those other titles, the content of this book lives up to its title as well. In fact, I'm having difficulty coming up with a book that has such a deliciously involved title that doesn't live up to it. Can you? Any novel with a long name really has to be strong enough (and by that I mean interesting enough) to live up to it, doesn't it?

Clearly I digress. It's difficult to explain why this book is so fantastic, and to explain why, think of The Phantom Tollbooth. I dare anyone who has read that book to sum it up concisely. There were so many times while reading this book that I thought of TPT, not because they're really all that alike in terms of story, but more that they're alike in terms of the sly way the authors used a child's fantasy novel to impart little wise asides about our daily lives. They're similar in that "out of the mouths of babes" kind of thing that you get from other books like Winnie-the-Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, too, where a childlike innocence and curiosity underscores some of our deepest thoughts and brings to light some of our most foolish actions. All without condemning us, simply pointing them out, as if they're saying, just in case you missed the fact that as adults we're sometimes selfish asses, and here's why that might be, and here's how to maybe stop. But, you know, without being too pretentious about it. Now on to what the story is actually about.

September is a little mostly-heartless girl from Omaha who is whisked away for an adventure in Fairyland by the Green Wind and his Leopard. Queen Mallow has gone missing and The Marquess has replaced her and so instead of everything in Fairyland being sugar and spice and all that's nice, the Wyvern and fairies have their wings chained and other bad things like that are happening. September doesn't really know much about the history of this, she is mostly just trying to have an adventure, but she has read fairy tales before and so recognizes a quest when she sees one. In addition to the Green Wind, along her quest September will meet a red Wyvern, a blue Marid, a Panther, a few fairies, a changeling, some witches, a woman made entirely of soap, and last but not least, a paper lantern. All play integral roles - some to hurt, some to help - as September loses a shoe but gets a new pair, is gifted a jacket and sash, collects a spoon, a wrench, and the most loyal key ever, and don't forget, sails around Fairyland on a ship of her own making (losing her heart and her shadow in the process). If all of that doesn't sound intriguing enough to make you read it, then I don't know what will.

1 comment:

  1. I have been wanting to read this one ever since it first came out and people were raving over it. It sounds absolutely magnificent, and like something that I am bound to fall in love with. I love that you gave your review the greatest consideration, and that you listed some of the brilliant characters that the author has created. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I do so appreciate it!


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