Review: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Suzanna Clarke

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Publication: October 26th 2006
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 235 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tales
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤

I became interested in this book after finding this cute shirt on etsy by the talented Bunnydee. I didn’t know who The Ladies of Grace Adieu were but with all the neat witchy and magical products and illustrations Bunnydee posts on her Etsy and Instagram, then it must be something I’d be interested in.

The world of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one I’m interested in, and the one presented in this book is right up my alley. I love reading about powerful and magical women, I love reading about fairy tales, but that being said I feel like I needed to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell first so that I knew what world I was entering. I was confused a number of times throughout the book because while I knew it was fantasy I didn’t realize it was an alternate time frame. I think I’d like to reread this once I’ve read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell though.

Since this is a short story collection, I’ll give a mini-review of each story before posting my overall thoughts of the collection.

“The Ladies of Grace Adieu”

I enjoyed the story much more near the ending when I finally understood what was going on. It was dark, creepy, and full of powerful witchy women. It’s the only story in the collection to feature Jonathan Strange which is why I was confused when I started reading it. I knew Jonathan Strange had his own book, but I didn’t understand his significance or importance to the world of the story (or Clarke’s fictional world). Before this story, the book does start off with an introduction by a fictional doctor in fairy studies, but this only confused me more. I really need to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

“On Lickerish Hill”

This story is a kind of retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, but still enjoyable. I really enjoyed Miranda’s narration in this story because it was so unlike all the other stories in the collection. Though her voice sometimes made it difficult to understand what she was trying to say, it brought a lot of depth to her character and I grew really attached to her. I think it would be interesting if Clarke brought this character into another story or novel of her own.

“Mrs. Mabb”

This story was so creepy and I loved it! It starts out very innocent and like an Austen-novel but quickly turns into something out of Grimm’s. I loved Venetia and trying to piece together everything that was happening to her, and I loved how she took action to get back her kind-of fiancee. I don’t want to say much more in case I spoil it, but it’s a fantastic story!

“The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse”

For the most part, this story is really boring. It’s the only story in the collection that takes place in the same universe as Neil Gaiman’s Stardust which is interesting, but since I haven’t read that book or seen the movie it didn’t affect how I read the story. It’s a pretty short story, and very simple but the last few lines completely changes it. I got shivers when I read them!

“Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower”

This is the story I disliked most in the collection. It’s one of the longest in the book, and written in diary entries. While I don’t dislike books written in this style, I don’t think they’re done well a lot of the time. The story gets confusing and overall it isn’t interesting. If you’re a big fan of fairies and changelings you might like this story better than I did.

“Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby”

Another long story about fairies, but this one is more interesting. Tom Brightwind was an interesting character, and I liked the footnotes added in the story which gave information on fairy history in Clarke’s world. The ending was really interesting, and with the information of fairy history CLarke gave this is another story (and set of characters) I’d like to see in another story or separate novel.

“Antickes and Frets”

This is a very short story centering on the infamous Mary Queen of Scots imprisonment as she tries to enact revenge on her sister Queen Elizabeth. I really enjoyed the magic in this story, as well as reading how Mary changed from the beginning to ending of the story. Keeping this vague because again, I don’t want to spoil anything!

“John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”

The last, and another short, story in the collection. This one felt most like a fairy tale filled with morals, rewards, and lessons. I know the story is set and significant to Clarke’s universe, but I felt like anyone who read this without reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (like me) would have thought this was a morality/mythology tale from another culture. It’s a simple, easy story to read but a good way to end the collection.

Overall Thoughts

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories is a very good collection filled with magic, fairy tales, and powerful women. Clarke has an excellent voice for historical (or should I say alternate historical) fiction. The book is made perfect by Charles Vess’ beautiful illustrations which have so much detail in them. What I’ve learned most from reading this collection, is that I really need to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

 

 

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