The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is one of those books that make an impact the moment you hear the title. You immediately wonder what it’s all about. I saw this one pop up in several Best of 2011 lists end of last year so I’ve been planning to read it for a while now. The perfect opportunity arrived when read-along buddies Janice and Holly agreed that this would be our next pick.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t… then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is a delightful read. If I was the type of reader who highlighted books then my copy would have colorful pages. I wanted to take note of so many of the passages that I liked. This is the type of novel that has lyrical writing that just sweeps you away. I’m definitely a fan of that kind of writing but there were times when it felt a bit much. There were moments when I had to read this in bits and pieces instead of swallowing everything in one big gulp because I felt like I could use a break. In a way, I wasn’t as engrossed in the story as I wanted to be. I still enjoyed reading about September’s adventures in Fairyland though. September is a pretty easy character to like – a reader craving to be part of something bigger than what she feels like is a very ordinary life. I guess my expectations were just a bit high after everything that I’ve heard about the book. Since I loved how unique the writing is, I thought it would be a good idea to give non-spoilery samples:
“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”
*nods head* Here’s another one I really liked:
“For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets.”
Wishes that become regrets, I think that’s beautiful. Last but not the least:
“Temperament, you’ll find, is highly dependent on time of day, weather, frequency of naps, and whether one has had enough to eat.”
Love that last bit because that is so me. My mood is dependent on whether I’ve had enough food and sleep. Also, if I’m reading a good book or not. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is reminiscent of the Narnia books, Alice in Wonderland and other books that follow the same format – a human child gets whisked off to a magical land, where he or she has to go on a quest although September’s story has its own twists and turns. This book is also September’s coming-of-age story, how she learns to view the world in a different light as she matures. While I did find Fairyland fascinating, I was hoping that the story would have something different to surprise me and I was starting to think that it wasn’t going to happen until revelations near the end resulted in events that I didn’t expect. I apologize for being vague but I finished reading the book on a high note and I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel. If it was available in the library or any of the bookstores that I’ve visited, I would have grabbed a copy of it already. Even though this one didn’t make it to my list of favorites for this year, I very much enjoyed reading it and I get the feeling that most fantasy readers will feel the same way about it. I feel like we made a good choice when we picked this to read together.