2011 Book #9: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
I’m tempted to make that sentence my entire review, but I guess I’ll give you some context.
Fairyland is about a young girl named September who gets whisked away to Fairyland by the Green Wind, loses a shoe, ends up on a quest to fetch a witch’s spoon from the wicked Marquess who rules the land, and in the process befriends a wyverary named A-through-L (it’s a family name, see, his mother was a wyvern and his father was a library), along with many other magical beings.
You should read it. Because it’s wonderful. Because it’s beautifully done. Because you will enjoy it.
I say you’ll enjoy it because I can’t think of a single person I get along with who would not enjoy this book, and if you’re reading this ridiculous blog that people find by Googling “jetpack unicorn,” chances are we would probably get along, at least in mutual jetpack and/or unicorn appreciation. (There are no jetpacks or unicorns in this book, but that spirit of weirdness is there.)
Fairyland isn’t just a fairy tale for children; it’s a commentary on the fairy tales we love as children, how they change us, and why they (and we, as readers and participants) matter. I’m a sucker for stories about stories. The only other book that I recommend to anyone I know is Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, which is about storytelling and why it matters. Valente’s book reminded me a bit of Rushdie’s, in the best way.
You should read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Go on.
Writing lesson learned: This is how you write a great third-person omniscient narrator for a fairy tale. Valente’s narrator is like a reader who’s been through this story several times before, warning you of what’s coming and wishing they could warn September, too. I loved the narrator almost as much as I loved the characters.
You might like this book if you enjoy… Fairy tales. Books with strong female protagonists who have fantastic names. Reading.
Would I recommend this to friends? I read this book in Scotland when I could have been watching the Highlands roll by outside the coach window instead, and after closing the book, I immediately passed it over the seat to my friend for him to read. And then I talked it up to friends on the Ravelry forums and anyone who would listen to me in person. And then I wrote this. So yes. A world of yes.