nick730 (nick730) wrote,

Book review: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories

I didn't even realise Susanna Clarke had published a follow-up to the brilliant Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell until I mentioned that book to someone at work, who promptly lent me a copy of Clarke's short-story collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Since Strange took her a decade to write, I doubt this second tome was knocked up in a year, so I suspect these stories about encounters with Faerie are ones she wrote initially as exercises in building the universe of her fantasy epic, and has released this collection off the back of its success.

Luckily the stories are good enough that this doesn't come across as pure money-grabbing. The whole book is framed as if taking place in the current day in Clarke's magical universe, with a modern professor of Sidhe (Faerie) studies introducing stories spanning several centuries of humans' encounters with fairies - often sniffily dismissing the stories' style. The stories themselves are fun, the most successful in my opinion being "Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower" which achieves a nice mix of quirkiness and menace. Some of the stories are Clarke's adaptations of well-known fables, others are original and one even takes place in Wall, in the universe created in Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust (Vess also provides illustrations for this collection.)

I'm sure the book works well enough on its own merits, but for me it helped that I'd read and enjoyed the novel, as it brought me back into a familiar universe I'd enjoyed when I read it a year ago.

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