So this setting is 1920s New York City. In an old townhouse there lives a jerk. He's married to a woman (that we know almost nothing about) that has given him 12 children. But all of them are girls, not the boy that he wants and that he thinks would help him climb the New York City social ladder. So what does this jerk do? He keeps them basically prisoner on the top few floors of the townhouse and has extremely minimal contact. And when I say minimal I mean, he hasn't seen a lot of them since the day they were born. When their mother dies one of the girls finds out by accident and has to tell the others, their dad doesn't even tell them. So when I call him a jerk what I really mean that he is an abusive psycho.
Jo is the oldest of the 12. With the utter lack of any parental support she quickly becomes the sister in charge. Her sisters think she's bossy and a little cold and so they call her the General. She is usually the one who has to brave talking to their father when the time calls for it. (Like when he finally agreed to give them a $4 a month allowance. $4. For 12 girls. Even with "back then" prices that can't have been much).
Jo and 2nd oldest Lou, had had a few tastes of freedom because they were the oldest. They had gotten outside, and even had occasionally snuck out for movies. They would come home and teach the other girls dances that they had seen. Finally, a few years in Lou reaches a breaking point and is about to run away. Jo makes an executive decision. They need a break, they need to get out of that house. The four oldest, sneak out at midnight, find a speakeasy and go dancing. It's basically the best night of their lives. They end up doing this for years. As the younger ones get older, they join in. And towards the middle/end of the book the 12 dancing princesses (no one knows their identities, or even that they are sisters. Except the two sets of twins, kinda obvious). This actually goes off without incident for several years. But theeeeen, not so much.
Also, a few touches of romance along the way!
The book wasn't bad, but it never really hooked me. I'm not sure why. There were a couple of things that kind of irritated me about this book. First, is the sense of time. The girls obviously really range in age and a lot of time passes in the book. At any given point I couldn't tell you how old any of them were. There's talk about Jo having grey hair, but considering the strain she was under in their given situation she could have had greys by 20! This made it hard to picture in my head and I need to be able to kind of picture things in my head for things to go well.
The second problem is more practical. The girls have no formal education. They occasionally had governesses but when the last of the girls was born Daddy Dearest no longer saw the need. They did have access to the home's library. When freedom comes, none of them have any marketable skills (2 are good seamstresses) or education. That's what makes Jo worried. It's like "uh, I know you needed to get out of that house. But maybe when you weren't dancing you should have maybe really tried to hammer home some book learning because you're going to need an education if you don't want to be a factory girl for the rest of your life". It's not like they didn't have time.
Overall I give it a low 3 out of 5 stars. It was fine, it was kind of interesting, but it couldn't really seal the deal for me.
Did anyone else take part in the Dewey's Readathon; a straight 24 hours of reading and book camaraderie from all around the world? Ironically I did very little reading! I spent most of my time with my co-cheerleaders from Team Jane Eyre, spreading encouragement and emoticons to our readers. It was really fun, even though it was a little bit daunting because there was just so many people to cheer for! We all had a super late night which made for a pretty drowsy Sunday but it was worth it! The next one is in October, which might just give Andi and Heather long enough to recover to plan the next one!