I read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente for one of my book groups. It was suggested by a woman whose middle-school aged daughter had already read it. In my head I though of it as The Book with the Purposely Unwieldy Title.
It flies its geek flag proudly, starting off with a bunch of fantasy tropes:
Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her and flew to her window one evening just after her twelfth birthday.
This is a modern take on the Victorian fairy tale, and reminded me strongly of Neil Gaiman’s work. The author does not hide the shoulders she’s standing on to write the tale: Persephone, Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, and Gulliver’s Travels are all given nods. If you enjoy those stories, then you’ll likely enjoy this one, which is a cheeky, knowing take on a lost child’s adventure.
September makes interesting friends and enemies, and takes on a quest, of course. She is by turns afraid, brave, stupid and clever and thus a decent guide to Valente’s version of Fairyland. Originally written as a web series, it tends to wander rather than proceed with purpose.
There are some surprising twists at the end that I appreciated and I found the book engaging and diverting to read. I will check out the sequel, but don’t feel the need to do so now, now, now.