Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories is another masterpiece by Susanna Clarke. It is a collection of eight short stories set mostly in England in the early 19th century. The stories are absolutely magical. Characters include Mary Queen of Scots, the Duke of Wellington, Jonathan Strange, and John Uskglass (the raven king) among others. Each story has that wonderful, magical charm that she put into every page of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Fairies appear in many of her stories. I love her fairies because they are not your traditional fairies. One of my favorite stories in this collection is "Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge was Built at Thoresby". In this story, her fairy, Tom Brightwind, is six feet tall, has somewhat of a malicious side and has no wings at all. Another favorite is "On Lickerish Hill", which is Susanna Clarke's version of Rumplestiltskin.

What makes this book even more magical is Charles Vess' illustrations. The whole package of the book makes you feel like you hold a treasure in your hand. The cover is designed beautifully, the stories are magical, the pages of the book are antiqued, and the illustrations are just gorgeous. I feel special for owning a copy of the book. Charles Vess' illustrations are very Victorian looking and go wonderfully with the stories. I felt as if I were reading an old book of fairy tales from the 19th century complete with illustrations of the time and all. It's very easy to forget that this book was published in 2006.

Clarke truly is a master of her genre. She spins tales that become classics as soon as they're written and her use of the english language is simply beautiful. I can't wait to see what we can expect from her in the coming years. She has announced that she has somewhat of a sequel to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in mind, though it will probably take place after Strange and Norrell are long gone. I'm sure that whatever her brilliant mind produces next, it will be just as much of a pleasure to read as her first two books have been.


Carl V. said...

Glad to hear it is that good, especially since I bought both the autographed, slip cased copy and the one you pictured for a reading copy. It is on my list to read in the spring when my fantasies, mythology, and fairy tales will dominate my reading.

Chris said...

It'll be perfect for that genre. Where'd you get the slip cased copy?

Carl V. said...

I got it directly from the jonathan strange website which linked to the publisher. Must be sold out though because it isn't there anymore.

If you scroll down in this post:

you can see pics of it.