This is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses
set during the prohibition era 1920s and focuses on the lives of the residents and staff of the Artemisia, a New York hotel where movie stars rub shoulders with gangsters, artists and politicians; a beacon of hope for the wannabes of the city - the writers, the chorus girls, the 'stars-to-be' - where anybody who wants to be somebody
eventually finds themselves; an opulent, hedonistic playground where anything and everything goes.
Zelda Fair wants to find her calling. Her natural beauty gets her plenty of attention, but she wants more than to be just an object of affection. Frankie the bellboy wants to be a writer, but quite possibly even more than that he just wants Zelda. Al, permanent resident of the hotel's mysterious basement, pulls the strings and arranges the best parties, where, if you play your cards right, you can have everything you ever wanted.
Valente's prose is like a drug. Each meticulously crafted sentence just seems to drip off the page and seep into my brain, releasing a wave of specially manufactured 'magical realism endorphins'. There's a flow, almost a lyrical rhythm to it all, and once I get caught up in that steady stream I literally do not want to be anywhere else. I could probably go on to mention how I didn't think that Speak Easy
was particularly perfect, and how the last quarter felt a bit too rushed and uneven compared to the rest of the book, but instead I'll tell you what I did after I finished it.
I went and made a cup of tea, then I picked it back up and read it all over again.
Also: signed copy!