Saturday, 10 March 2012

'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' by Susanna Clarke (2006)

Synopsis: The Ladies of Grace Adieu is a collection of eight short stories that is set in the same universe as Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

On my cover of The Ladies of Grace Adieu there's a quote which states that 'these tales read as if Jane Austen had rewritten the Brothers Grimm... wonderful'. That's pretty apt as a summary! Although this book is obviously very different from Clarke's other book Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - as the former is a collection of eight short stories and the latter is an epic novel - the overall atmosphere and writing-style are very much the same. It's got the 19th century style language, the blending of fact and fiction, the presence of the fairies. It also comes with great illustrations like its predecessor - this time by Charles Vess - and it has a very pretty cover (not that that should matter of course...)

I really enjoyed this book and I think that, apart from the title story perhaps, it would make for a really nice introduction to Clarke's work. Admittedly, I wasn't too keen on the 'Lickerish Hill' story and the story 'Antickes and Frets' in this book, for the simple reason that I didn't find them quite as engaging as the others. But on the whole this book is great fun and the stories are clever and amusing. I understand that most of the stories have been published before in various magazines but I'm really glad the decision was made to publish them all in here as part of a collection.

Being the massive fan of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell that I am I particularly enjoyed the title story and 'John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner', which feature the characters of Jonathan Strange and the Raven King respectively, although I did enjoy 'Mrs Mabb', 'Tom Brightwind' and The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse' as well (the latter is set in Neil Gaiman's Stardust!). However, as good as all of these short stories are, my favourite of the stories has got to be 'Mr Simonelli, or The Fairy Widower'. Mr Simonelli is a great character and I'm really hoping that Clarke will write more about him in the future! He's just so hilariously arrogant! He's a bit like Mr Elton in Jane Austen's Emma. But Simonelli is more amusing with his arrogance than Mr Elton is and he's a strangely endearing character. The Ladies of Grace Adieu is an excellent companion piece to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Susanna Clarke is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

Rating: 4/5

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