A.M.'s Reviews > The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own M... by Catherynne M. Valente
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's review
Jan 24, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012-challenge-list, fiction, young-adult-childrens
Read from January 20 to 23, 2012

It took me awhile to get into the flow of this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. It is the tale of a 12-year old girl's adventures in Fairyland, but halfway through the book, it becomes clearer to the reader that her interesting trials and encounters are metaphors for "life" lessons/contemplations - on death, on the nature of the ego and our "shadow" self, on love and regret.

Here is an interesting metaphorical reference to the concept of Shrodinger's Cat, using a casket instead of a box: "The casket is really quite clever . . . How shall I explain? It is both empty and full until one opens it. For when a box is shut, you cannot tell what it might contain, so you might as well say it contains everything, because, really, it could contain anything, see? But when you open it, you affect what is inside. Observing something changes it, that's a law, nothing to be done."

And here is a lovely exchange with Death, where, upon seeing a tiny brown creature barely a finger high, September exclaims, "But you're so small!" and Death replies, "Only because you are small. You are young and far from your Death, September, so I seem as anything would seem if you saw it from a long way off - very small, very harmless. But I am always closer than I appear."

The imagery is intoxicating, as in this paragraph after September had begun to transform into a tree - "September could see Mercurio, the spriggans' village, nestled in the flaming trees, loaf chimneys smoking cozily, the smell of breakfast, pumpkin flapjacks, and chestnut tea floating over the forest to her shriveled nose. September tried to call out. Red leaves burst from her mouth in a scarlet puff and drifted away."

There are also references to wardrobe adventures, which I appreciated, being an avid Narnia fan. Though this is marketed as a book for young adults, given the complexity and richness of the references, allusions and metaphors, I think older readers will appreciate it more than younger ones. This is a book I can actually see myself re-reading in the future, and I am looking forward to exploring more of Catherynne Valente's works.


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