Saturday, 21 October 2006

Book Review: The Ladies of Grace Adieu (Susanna Clarke)

You can tell I haven't had time to blog, or had much to blog about anyway by the way the last two posts went. One was a result of having the phrase 'Disco Dragons' stuck in my head for a few hours, the other one was a failed attempt to write a coherant story out of song titles that have the honorifics Mr, Mrs or Miss in them.

Sporadic nonsense indeed.

Anyway, it's a weekend, AND a public holiday as well (Happy Deepavali & Selamat Hari Raya to everyone!), so let's get back to business shall we? At least with a Hopefully-Weekly-Book-Review, you will actually KNOW what I'm talking about...

Anyway, on to Susanna Clarke's latest book: The Ladies of Grace Adieu. The cover looks like a chic book, the title sounds like a chic book, but its actually a collection of fantasy short stories set in the same period/era/style as Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.


Title: The Ladies of Grace Adieu (and other stories)
Author: Susanna Clarke

Faerie is never as far away as you think. Sometimes you find you have crossed an invisible line and must cope, as best you can, with petulant princesses, vengeful owls, ladies who pass their time embroidering terrible fates, or with endless paths in deep dark woods and houses that never appear the same way twice.

The heroines and heroes bedevilled by such problems in these fairytales include a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor and Mary Queen of Scots, as well as two characters from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Strange himself and the Raven King.

What I Liked:
  • It reminds me of everything I liked about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  • Some of the stories here remind me of the little fairytales and fables I used to love when I was a kid.
  • I love the different styles and ways that Clarke uses to tell her stories.
  • Fairies! Magic! and more Jonathan Strange! And the Raven King!
  • A story based on Stardust!
  • the illustrations are cool, and drawn by Charles Vess (Stardust, Books of Magic)

What I Didn't Like:
  • Sometimez I doe not knoe what she sayz becauz she writes like thiz, especially on the second story On Lickerish Hill (which Clarke writes entirely in Suffolk dialect)
  • I suppose if you're not familiar with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel, then the way Clarke writes her stories here, as well as the setting, would seem a little dry and hard to get into.

Put simply, if you loved Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, you'll love this book as well. Almost all the stories are set in roughly the same period, and written in roughly the same style.

However, the stories here are hardly straghtforward though, since almost all of them have their own unique feel to them, and the styles in which Clarkes wrote the stories makes this a pretty varied yet similar collection.

I especially liked the title story - The Ladies of Grace Adieu - because besides having Jonathan Strange himself in the story, it also expands the fantasy world in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and adds more dimensions to that book.

Other stories I liked was Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby, John Uskglass and the Charcoal Burner (it has a very fable-like feel to it) and Mrs Mabb.

Clarke even wrote one story based on Neil Gaiman's Stardust (though I didn't read that particular story - The Duke of Wellington Misplaces his Horse - because I haven't read Stardust yet, and I don't wanna risk reading any spoilers.)

It's usually a pretty good measure of how good a book is if I manage to finish it within a couple of days of buying it. I bought The Ladies of Grace Adieu while on another of my Kinokuniya KLCC excursions to look for Wintersmith (which is STILL not out here yet. GRRRR) last Sunday, and finished it on Thursday, so there you

After Gaiman's Fragile Things, this is the second collection of short stories running that I have finished in record time. This year may well be the year of fantasy short story collections for me. Until Wintersmith finally gets here, that is...

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