Monday, July 5, 2010

The Ladies of Grace Adieu

by Susanna Clarke
illustrated by Charles Vess
New York: Bloomsbury, 2006

The short story collection by the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is set in the same world as that novel. The "Introduction" by the "Director of Sidhe Studies, University of Aberdeen" gives the tales a pseudo-historical feel: either the tale itself is an alternate history, or illustrative of the legends of that world. The use of footnotes adds to the feeling of history or a literary collection used in "Sidhe Studies." This adds a layer of complexity and cleverness to the collection.

The stories themselves I found of varying interest. Some confused me, many seemed dark. These fairies are governed by ethics much different from humans' and their interactions in the human world generally cause trouble, whether intended or not. Personally, my favorite was "On Lickerish Hill," the story of a girl, Miranda, whose mother promises the man Miranda weds that she can spin five skeins of wool a day. I enjoyed recognizing the tale, though it was told in a style very different from what I would have expected. If you've been thinking of trying Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but were intimidated by the size, try this first to get a shorter introduction to Susanna Clarke's Faerie world.

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