Princess Frida, leaving Kalia in her mother's motor car © Angela Barrett, 2017
I'm so thrilled to be able to share the title - and the first completed illustration by Angela Barrett - of my children's novel, The Restless Girls. Angela is truly a genius, and I am so lucky she said yes to painting my words. I knew immediately when I was asked to revisit the fairytales of my childhood which one I was going to write. The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm was always a longtime favourite of mine - I loved the idea of twelve sisters, of a secret door to an underground world, full of shining forests and a dancefloor where they whiled away the entire night in secret before returning to the palace at dawn. But when I re-read it as an adult there was a lot about it that enraged me. Firstly, why don't the girls have names? Secondly, why should the girls' fun be spoiled because their father doesn't like them having a secret? Thirdly, why should a random man be able to don a cloak of invisibility - essentially stalking and spying on them - and reveal their secret, thus ruining their happiness and their lives? Fourthly, why should his reward for this be the hand in marriage of any one of the daughters he chooses, whether or not she wants it? Oh, and the kingdom to boot! FIFTHLY, why, if this is a story about twelve dancing princesses, do we never hear from the princesses themselves?
So I changed it a bit. Which was very, very fun. In fact, the most fun writing I've had since I was twelve.
The dancing's still there, the underground worlds, the sisterhood, the fun and excitement. But let's just say that this time round, the girls are more ingenious, determined, and fiery than the Brothers Grimm might ever have imagined. Add a talking lioness, a peacock maitre d', some toucan waiters and a monkey on the saxophone, and you get the idea. I can't wait for younger readers to get their hands on it. Here's a little synopsis of the novel below:
For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia’s death in a motor car accident is a disaster beyond losing a mother. Their father, King Alberto, cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. Those costs include their lessons, their possessions and, most importantly, their freedom. But the eldest, Princess Frida, will not bend to his will without a fight and she still has one possession her father can’t take – the power of her imagination. And so with little but wits and ingenuity to rely on, Frida and her sisters begin their fight to be allowed to live.
More news soon!