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The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (edition 2007)

by Susanna Clarke

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3,189991,748 (3.87)188
Member:Shacco
Title:The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories
Authors:Susanna Clarke
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2007), Painos: 1st, Paperback, 256 sivua
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke

  1. 132
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (billiecat, celtic)
  2. 80
    Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman (Larkken)
    Larkken: The short stories contained in each anthology have a similar feel, and both, to some degree, play with traditional fairy tale themes. Clarke's novel benefits from reading her debut novel, as this collection is placed in the same world.
  3. 80
    The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany (billiecat)
  4. 40
    Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland by W. B. Yeats (billiecat)
  5. 30
    Smith of Wootton Major by J. R. R. Tolkien (paradoxosalpha)
  6. 20
    Lud-in-the-mist by Hope Mirrlees (Jannes)
    Jannes: A wonderful tale about elves, humans and the delicate balance between them, written in the same florid and fariy-tale-esque vein that both Dunsany and Clarke uses so effectively.
  7. 20
    Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner (Michael.Rimmer)
  8. 11
    Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (jujuvail)
  9. 14
    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling (norabelle414)
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» See also 188 mentions

English (98)  Hungarian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
I have quite a few illustrated reprints of 19th- and early 20th-century folk- and fairy-tale collections on my shelves, some even facsimiles of the originals, and so this collection of short stories by the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in many ways seemed familiar. Not only were the Charles Vess illustrations deliberately reminiscent of those of Arthur Rackham and his ilk, but the writing often recalled antiquarian texts with the occasional scholarly footnotes. In fact I was often reminded of the ghost stories of M R James in that they seemed as if written by an earlier avatar of that academic.

Above all, of course, the style was unmistakably that of Susanna Clarke's own magnificent debut novel with its Regency aesthetic and period spelling -- and no worse for that. That this collection has been compared unfavourably with that doorstopper of a fantasy is unfortunate since it should be judged solely as a group of short fictions: as such it is much more successful than many an uneven selection of miscellaneous tales, even those by a single author.

The informative introduction is by Professor James Sutherland, Director of Sidhe Studies at the University of Aberdeen (though you will search in vain for any online bibliography by, or even biography of, the holder of this prestigious post); he describes this book as an ideal primer on Faerie or the fairy realm. The title story -- in some ways the most memorable of the eight tales -- is set in the same period as the action of Strange & Norrell, and in fact Jonathan Strange himself puts in an appearance. The three ladies living in the Gloucestershire parish of Grace Adieu are proof that, despite Gilbert Norrell's assertion that he was the first and foremost modern practitioner of English magic, men did not have the monopoly of that power; as Lady Catherine of Winchester wrote, "magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head." The ladies further demonstrate the truth of this medieval writer's assertion, that "everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger." Righteous anger is the motivation in this case when intruding males attempt to impose their arbitrary wills on the ladies.

"The Ladies of Grace Adieu" must be partly inspired, I believe, by Renaissance images of the classical Three Graces; in particular Botticelli's Primavera features these mythical figures dressed in diaphanous robes, whose near neoclassical style was not only popular in the Regency period (when this story is set) but is also referenced in Jonathan Strange's vision of
"three ladies in pale gowns walking (almost dancing) upon the bank above him. The stars surrounded them; the night-wind took their gowns and blew them about."
The title of the story is also allusory: the village title isn't, as might be assumed, "goodbye to grace" (a comment on the 'unnatural' abilities of these three females) but grace à dieu, French for "thanks be to God". In other words, whatever finally happens to Captain Winbright and Mr Littleworth -- and to the put-upon Miss Pye -- is only just, the consequence of righteous anger, the attribute of the God of the Old Testament. And of female practitioners of magic.

"The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse" is a whimsical version of the familiar fairytale of a visitor to the Otherworld. Featuring Britain's heroic general -- who has already appeared in Strange & Norrell -- the story shows the army commander in an unfavourable light, contrary to his popular appeal, completely out of his depth in Faerie. (This tale was inspired by the village of Wall which appears in Neil Gaiman's Stardust.) The other story that links indirectly with Strange & Norrell is Lord Portishead's "John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner". As Professor Sutherland points out, the Raven King John Uskglass (who is a key figure in a "somewhat obscure novel") features in folktales of a type in which "the rich and powerful are confounded by their social inferiors". And so it proves in this wonderful and humorous retelling from A Child's History of the Raven King.

"Mrs Mabb" is very reminiscent of the group of Tam Lin ballads, about a young woman who tries to rescue her true love from the clutches of a wouldbe fairy lover. Venetia Moore is in love with Captain Fox but he mysteriously disappears, apparently captivated by the charms of Mrs Mabb. There are echoes in this tale of the Dancing Princesses motif, and a hint of the Mr Fox folktale (which proves to be a false lead), but the clue of course is from Mrs Mabb herself -- who must be related to (if not indeed the same as) Shakespeare's Queen Mab, referred to in Romeo and Juliet. Another queen appears in the short tale "Antickes and Frets" which gives an alternative view of Mary Queen of Scots. In her deluded attempt to dispose of the Queen of England by any means possible Mary Stuart even apparently resorted to magic. But she had not reckoned with the redoubtable Countess of Shrewsbury, Bess Hardwick.

Two of the tales are told in the first person. "On Lickerish Hill" is told by the relatively unlettered Miranda (a name surely inspired by The Tempest) who marries above her station. Set in 17th-century Cambridgeshire, this is based on the Suffolk version of the Rumpelstiltskin tale type, "Tom Tit Tot". I suspect the choice of word is deliberate: 'lickerish' is a medieval spelling of a French word meaning lecherous, and so her fairy bride seems to be. This is a delightfully told (if at times sinister) narrative, which brings in John Aubrey and a clutch of Cambridgeshire worthies (if their topographic surnames are anything to judge by).

The second of the first-person narratives is "Mr Simonelli or The Fairy Widower". Here we have some rather dubious characters, not only the Fairy Widower -- who is as sinister as the Gentleman with Thistledown Hair in Strange & Norrell -- but Alessandro Simonelli himself. Professor Sutherland reminds us Simonelli is a notoriously unreliable narrator, and we see some aspects of this in the tale where he tries to show himself in a good light, all of which is confirmed when we learn of his origins.

"Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby" purportedly first appeared in Blackwood's Magazine in 1820. It recounts the friendship between the gentleman fairy Tom Brightwind and the 18th-century Jewish physician David Montefiore. On a journey to Lincoln the pair passed through one of the Lincolnshire villages called Thoresby which had dire need of a bridge to revive its ailing fortunes. As is the wont of lecherous fairies there was an ulterior motive to Tom Brightwind stopping in Thoresby to deal with the inhabitants' lack of a decent river crossing.

Several strands emerge from this striking group of tales. First, almost as if to counteract the dominance of male figures in Strange & Norrell four of the tales focus on women. True, not all act or end up well, but they are at least centre stage as it were. Second is the creative use of traditional tales, mediated through the kind of language spoken or written in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Third is the geographical range of tales -- we go from Gloucestershire to Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire to Lincolnshire, Staffordshire to Cumbria.

And fourth is the strong sense of verisimilitude running through all the tales which, despite our certainty that this is all fantasy, almost persuades one that there must be a grain of truth in them -- so much so that one is tempted to research further despite it being a futile exercise! (Yes, Reader, I succumbed to the temptation, such was the magic of these delicious stories.)

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-graces ( )
1 vote ed.pendragon | Jun 28, 2016 |
The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories - Susanna Clarke
Audio version
3 stars

Two of my favorite readers, Simon Vance and Davina Porter, perform this collection of short stories. There are nine stories set in the magical world of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Like most collections, some of the stories are wonderful and others don’t quite hit the mark. Of the nine stories, the title selection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu was my favorite. Throughout her massive novel, Susanna Clarke touches the edges of female dissatisfaction in the 19th century world of Jonathan Strange. The Ladies of Grace Adieu take active magical steps to control their own destinies in defiance of male dominance. They reminded me of John Updike’s Witches of Eastwick. It was very satisfying to see the “little women” triumph. Several of the other stories deal with clever women overcoming evil male supremacy. On Lickerish Hill is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin and in Mrs. Mabb a clever mortal girl is able to extricate her fiancé from the clutches of an evil fairy. The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse not in Jonathan Strange’s universe, but on the other side of Neil Gaiman’s Wall.
Overall, the stories were entertaining. I found that they were best read, or listened to, one at a time. The details tended to run together without a sufficient break between each one.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
READ IN ENGLISH

I really enjoyed reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell as it was once of the books that surprised me in 2012. So, it was clear I wanted to read this book as well. I had actually been hoping on a full length sequel that could bring back the fantastic atmosphere from the book, but as that is not possible for now, I'm at least very happy with this set of lovely short stories, some of which are set in the same time as JS&MrN, but all are written is that same style that is so wonderful and impressive. ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
Despite the fact that the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, published in 2005, had more than 1,000 pages, it was and enchanting and compelling read, from which I derived a great deal of pleasure. Unfortunately, the stories in The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and other stories are not of the same quality.

Some of the stories in The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and other stories have the same characters as in the novel, while all stories are set in the magical wonderland of elves and magicians. The stories are either thematically linked to the novel or were written in the same style, either predating, written concurrently or shortly after the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was published. Some stories consist of fragments which were lifted out of the novel.

Perhaps what makes the novel so great is the huge scope and scale of the story, while the short stories as simply too short to develop a real sense.

Quite disappointing. ( )
  edwinbcn | Apr 19, 2016 |
A wonderful collection of short stories, each more charming than the last. Told in the old-fashioned styles of gone-by ages, with lots of dry humor and wit. Clarke can tell more story and characterization in a few of the details she lets casually drop than most authors can in an entire novel. And her magic! Fantastic but also so creepy, and it seems that it always lies just beyond one's understanding. I adored these. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
In the end, Ladies of Grace weaves a similar magic as Jonathan Strange, but perhaps the book is not magical enough.
added by Shortride | editBookmarks Magazine (Jan 1, 2007)
 
the stories in The Ladies of Grace Adieu are consistently subtle and enchanting, and as charismatic as any reader could wish, but, while the collection has the panache of [Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell], it lacks its glorious self-possession. The stories feel a little adrift, a little raw, occasionally too neat; they're not the natural heirs to the magnum opus. But then, how could they be, and why should they be? A short fiction collection is a different beast to a novel, and is bound to work on its readers in entirely different ways.

 
They are uniformly clever and meticulously composed, knowledgeable of folk traditions while giving them a modern spin.
 
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 and Norrell will want to get their hands on this book, but the rest will probably want to wait.
 
"Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower" is the most authentically creepy story here. A tale of a fairy who kidnaps young women and consigns them to the direst conditions imaginable, it wanders into Stephen King territory, though without the overt gore. "John Uskglass and the Cambrian Charcoal Burner" is a perfectly constructed fable with a witty, judicious outcome.
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susanna Clarkeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vess, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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 fairy tales include a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor and Mary Queen of Scots, as well as two characters from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Strange himself and the Raven King.
Dedication
For my parents, Janet and Stuart Clarke
First words
Introduction by Professor James Sutherland, Director of Sidhe Studies, University of Aberdeen:
I have approached this collection with two very modest aims in mind. The first is to throw some sort of light on the development of magic in the British Isles at different periods; the second is to introduce the reader to some of the ways in which Faerie can impinge upon our own quotidian world, in other words to create a sort of primer to Faerie and fairies.
Above all remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.
Quotations
Magic, madam, is like wine and, if you are not used to it, it will make you drunk.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Susanna Clarke returns with an enchanting collection 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. The heroines and heroes who must grapple with these problems include the Duke of Wellington, a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor, and Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as Jonathan Strange and the Raven King."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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