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The Ladies of Grace Adieu: And Other Storiesby Susanna Clarke
"If this sounds like your cup of tea with crumpets, by all means get this book and dine away. Make sure to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell first if you haven't; not so much because you need it to understand the context of the stories, but just because you really should read it. If you have read Strange and Norrell, here are some more delectable morsels from that table. Appetizers are served." Doug Brown, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
Following the enormous success of 2004 bestseller and critics' favorite Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke delivers a delicious collection of ten stories set in the same fairy-crossed world of 19th-century England.
With Clarke's characteristic historical detail and diction, these dark, enchanting tales unfold in a slightly distorted version of our own world, where people are bedeviled by mischievous interventions from the fairies. With appearances from beloved characters from her novel, including Jonathan Strange and Childermass, and an entirely new spin on certain historical figures, including Mary, Queen of Scots, this is a must-have for fans of Susanna Clarke's and an enticing introduction to her work for new readers.
Some of these stories have never before been published; others have appeared in the New York Times or in highly regarded anthologies. In this collection, they come together to expand the reach of Clarke's land of enchantment — and anticipate her next novel, due in Fall 2008.
"Like Clarke's first novel, the bestselling Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, these eight stories (seven previously published) are set in an England where magic is a serious but sometimes neglected field of study. The first story sees the erudite Strange tangling with country witches. Others show Austenesque concern with love and its outcomes ('Did you not hear me ask you to marry me?'), often involving fairies. In 'The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse,' the duke visits Faerie, a kingdom located on the other side of the wall in the village of Wall (a location Clarke borrows from Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess), and meets a woman whose needlework affects the future. In the footnoted 'Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge...,' a 'monumental' stone bridge is built in one afternoon. Clarke humorously revisits Rumplestiltzkin in 'On Lickerish Hill,' in which it is revealed that 'Irishmen have tailes neare a quarter of a yard longe.' Clarke may have trouble reaching a new audience in short form, as the stories provide less opportunity to get lost in fantastical material, but the author's many fans will be glad to have these stories in one volume. Illus. by Charles Vess not seen by PW." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Spare a thought for the poor publisher. After taking a chance with a left-field entry in Susanna Clarke's door-stopping debut, 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,' they found themselves with a huge hit on their hands. The novel was ecstatically reviewed, garnered some important genre awards and sold in several languages. With all that goodwill and high profile, the only thing the publisher... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) has to worry about is the follow-up, and while they wait for that next book, there's the scramble to publish, well, pretty much anything by the author to capitalize on what has gone before. And that's the problem with 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu.' 'Strange & Norrell' was located squarely in the fantasy genre but was celebrated for its literary touch and its filigree attention to detail. A gigantic pastiche of 18th-century prose and sensibility, it was like a beautiful, long, scholarly essay on the supernatural and the world of faerie. Shorn of that density, however, the stories in 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' struggle to weave the same magic. Containing eight short stories previously published between 1996 and 2004, the collection effectively amounts to a pooling of practice pieces, exercises for 'Strange & Norrell.' Granted, they are very clever exercises, mostly offered again as careful restorations of late 18th- and early 19th-century compositions. But without the scope and the escapist hermetical seal of Strange & Norrell, the stories become suddenly exposed as light-as-a-feather whimsies. They're familiar fairy tales or dovetailed traditional yarns touched up for the purposes of elegant retelling. There is a take on Rumpelstiltskin in 'On Lickerish Hill' and a reprise of the time dilations of fairyland in 'Mrs Mabb.' Needlework pictures come to life in another slightly derivative tale called 'The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse.' Two more stories venture further back in the historical timeline, with Tudor and vaguely medieval settings. And although the title story anticipates the novel and indeed introduces the characters of Strange and Norrell, as a whole the collection tends to line up the usual suspects and the usual furniture, too, of fairyland. The prose, though, is consistently flawless and beautiful. Reading Clarke is like inspecting some wonderful antiquated craft, such as marquetry or fine hand embroidery. It's just that there are yards and yards and yards of the stuff, and at the back of your admiration for it all is a question about how, really, anyone can find the time. Because there is more at stake here, after all. Fairy tales, and the exploration of fairy tales, have been the subject of some extraordinary and enlightening research in the past few decades. On a critical level, one thinks of Marina Warner's astonishing excavations, and in the fictional arena lies the superb anthologizing work of editors and writers such as Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, who have done so much to remodel the fairy tale and reactivate its original dark forms. But the motive in 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' (and perhaps in 'Strange & Norrell,' too) seems to be to push the djinn back in the bottle and cork it with period prose. These stories are safe, quirky and unthreatening, and the only time you are likely to stumble across the word 'sex' in them is with reference to gender. You may find a woman's elegant white neck admired, but you'll be hard pressed to follow the gaze. The characters are emotionally disengaged. There is a kind of darkness, but there is no shadow. Clarke's writing displays a sense of cold virtuosity and a feeling of magic misdirected, of great cleverness without heft. Whether it takes 10 months or 10 years to produce her next full-length work, Susanna Clarke is a better writer than this showcase would have you believe. Devotees and completist fans of 'Strange & Norrell' will want to get their hands on this book, but the rest will probably want to wait. Graham Joyce's most recent novel is 'The Limits of Enchantment.'" Reviewed by Graham Joyce, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Materials from British folklore are reworked with beguiling narrative energy and mischievous wit....Irresistible storytelling, from a splendidly gifted enchantress." Kirkus Reviews
"Clarke has crafted eight quirky and devious stories to delight her fans....These stories are charming, engaging, and deceptively simple." Booklist
"[A] rich, redoubtable vision....For anyone who's been wary of taking on the terrifically intimidating tome that is Mr. Norrell, the lean, lovely, and witty Grace Adieu might just push you over the edge. (Grade: B+)" Entertainment Weekly
"These are all elegant, entertaining stories, and many readers will be untroubled by the airy incoherences found in The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Or else, they may simply say, with Tom Brightwind, 'Who cares?'" Ursula K. Le Guin, The Los Angeles Times
"Readers longing for the lilting language of fairy tales mixed with a dark take on the fantastical world of fairies and witches will find both in Ladies of Grace Adieu....It's easy to get swept up in these adventurous tales of spells and dark powers." USA Today
"The author's wry, knowing narrative voice owes debts to Jane Austen, Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the delightful illustrations by Charles Vess borrow from 19th-century fairy-tale collections, art deco and Edward Gorey." Seattle Times
"Clarke...is engaged in an experiment, and it isn't entirely successful. The fault lies mainly with the framing device, a faux-scholarly introduction that seems to promise a collection wider-ranging in time and tone than what she delivers." Newsday
"While Ladies of Grace Adieu might inspire new readers to...pick up the 782-page Jonathan Strange, its more likely audience is those who have already finished that novel and are experiencing such withdrawal that they are perusing scientific texts about sea cucumbers, searching for footnotes." The Christian Science Monitor
Following the enormous success of 2004 bestseller and critics' favorite Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Clarke delivers a delicious collection of ten stories set in the same fairy-crossed world of 19th-century England.
From the author of the award-winning, internationally bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, an enchanting collection of stories. Set in versions of England that bear an uncanny resemblance to the world of Strange and Norrell, these stories are brimming with all the ingredients of good fairy tales: petulant princesses, vengeful owls, ladies who pass their time in embroidering terrible fates, endless paths in deep, dark woods, and houses that never appear the same way twice. Their heroines and heroes include the Duke of Wellington, a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor, Mary, Queen of Scots, Jonathan Strange, and the Raven King himself. The Ladies of Grace Adieu is the perfect introduction to a world where charm is always tempered by eerieness, and picaresque comedy is always darkened by the disturbing shadow of Faerie.
About the Author
Susanna Clarke is the author of the New York Times bestseller and multiple award winner Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. She lives in Cambridge, England.
Table of Contents
The Ladies of Grace Adieu
On Lickerish Hill
The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse
Mr. Simonellie or The Fairy Widower
Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby
Antickes and Frets
John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner
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