The Ladies of Grace Adieu

March 24, 2018

Author: Susanna Clarke.


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.

(Published Summary)

My Thoughts:

Clarke’s signature, sweeping style plays off better in the long run, I’m afraid. I did enjoy this collection of short stories based in the same world as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, but they’re just not as good as the book. Susanne Clarke seems to develop her characters more slowly and gradually, building them up into real people – which can be a great thing. It just doesn’t work as well in a short story. The strange, sometimes dream-like nature of faerie magic also doesn’t fit into the shorter span. Furthermore, the collection is fairly dependent on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel; although it does not, for the most part, reference the action and sequence of that book, the worldbuilding assumes that you are already familiar with this particular country and its fae relations.

All that being said, I did still enjoy the stories. Clarke is very familiar with the best conventions of fairy stories, and plays off some of the oldest traditions – like the stolen nursemaid, the false glamor, the carelessness and violence of fae – in a pretty fashion. If you enjoy older english fairy tales rather than the romantic stuff that passes for fae now (Sarah J Mass, anyone?) this is the author for you.

Content Review:

Sexual Content: It is strongly suggested, non-explicitly, that a fairy gentleman bedded a (married, but not to him) woman who wanted a child; among other odd happenings, the child showed magical tendencies.

Language: 3 d***

Violence: Two men are eaten, as mice; a very dream-like scene in which owls simply “catch their prey” and there’s no blood. A young woman is found in ditch, bruised and sore, with no memory of what happened. The same woman is later found unconscious with bloody feet, with the vague idea that she’s been dancing but no further memory. Character finds a dead body split in half. Character tells a story about a fae seducer being knocked into a stream, pinned under the watermill, and eventually drowned. Character makes a magic sign he’d seen earlier, and his pursuer is torn in half.

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