Circumnavigating Fairyland

I loved ‘The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making‘ by Catherynne Valente. You’ll probably love it too if you like whimsical fantasy and/or playing with words and language and/or works by Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, Jasper Fforde, or even C. S. Lewis.

‘The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland on a Ship of Her Own Making’ is the story of September, a girl from Nebraska growing up during what seems to be World War II (she feels a bit abandoned by her father who is fighting abroad and by her mother who is working in an airplane factory). To her delight, the Green Wind shows up and offers to take her on an adventure to Fairyland, which she accepts without looking back because she is “Somewhat Heartless” (like all children), and a book-loving girl after my own heart who knows exactly what a trip to Fairyland means. She explores Fairyland, makes friends, and confronts the evil Marquess, whose recent changes to Fairyland have not been received well. Oh, and she builds a ship to circumnavigate Fairyland too.

Here are the top reasons why you should read this book.

  • The title. Despite it’s length and the fact that I can rarely remember it completely, who wouldn’t want to read ‘The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making’?
  • The Wyverary. The Honorable Wyvern A-Through-L is a half-Wyvern (think dragon), half-library (his father was a library) who goes by Ell. His siblings grew up in the library with his siblings M-Through-S and T-Through-Z. Ell knows about anything that starts with the letters A through L, but is less helpful if you need to know what a Marid is. Ell becomes great friends with September and accompanies her on her quest. I’d like to adopt him.
  • The language. I started bookmarking pages with quotations I wanted to share with you, but ended up with too many pages bookmarked. Here’s what I mean:
    • “The earth, my dear, is roughly trapezoidal, vaguely rhomboid, a bit of tesseract, and altogether grumpy when its fur is stroked the wrong way! In short, it is a puzzle, my autumnal acquisition, like the interlocking silver rings your aunt Margaret brought back from Turkey when you were nine” (5).
    • “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” (61).
    • “That’s what a map is, you know. Just a wish to go back home–someday, somehow” (169).
  • The other characters, especially Lye, a golem made out of soap, and Saturday, a marid that September rescues and befriends, and Gleam, a paper lantern. Oh, and the green smoking jacket, a partially-anthropomorphized coat given to September by the Green Wind that I would very much like to own. 
‘The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland on a Ship of Her Own Making’ was a pleasure to read, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book, ‘The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There‘. 5 stars.
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