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18 Apr 2011

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories




synopsis

A collection of olde faerie and magical tales mostly of sinister intent.





Magic, madam, is like wine and, if you are not used to it, it will make you drunk.








If you read and enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, then all you think on completion is getting your hands on anything else Susanna Clarke has written. Unfortunately for us, she's only written one other work, the above short story collection.

I was left in two minds over this one. As stories, they are enchanting, charming, and all those suitably quaint words, with a good dash of the sinister and disturbing. However, they're more whimsical than meaty, nor are they terribly imaginative - all but one are actually re-workings of old tales. No story blew me away.

Yet, it's an important collection, for two reasons. Ms Clarke has passed on authentic English folklore. Inasmuch that we have cruel, sly and powerful faerie rather than sweet and dainty fairies. We're taken back to a time where magic was an integral part of the land, it belonged to the olde faerie kingdom and also to the common folk. There is a deep naturalness here that is lost in many magical stories of today. It's something of which those attuned to English folk history are most appreciative.

Secondly, magic and power in this collection, is, for half the stories, placed in the hands of women. I was delighted to read about women using feminine crafts, such as embroidery, to work their magic. This is old wisdom - not a wand in sight. Magic here is not about books and study, but rather about heart and soul. It also exists alongside daily concerns of marriage and home. Taking magic back to emotion and the domestic sphere is a wholly feminine sensibility. It's an organic, intuitive, and practical magic. A style worth preserving amongst the scholarly and exclusive Potter-world of today.


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.



I think that the best way to enjoy this collection is by appreciating it's worth and to not hope for a similar impact as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It hovers somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, and I recommend it mostly to fans of Clarke.


7 comments:

  1. I haven't read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but I'd like to at some point.

    The way that magic is used in the stories sounds fascinating, and I like that a good portion focused on women.

    I have a tough time with short stories, even from some of my favorite authors, they always seem to be lacking a bit.

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  2. I would probably give this one a miss, unless you fall in love with her novel. Most of these short stories are not substantial, and therefore you'll likely feel they're lacking.

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  3. I didn't realize Clark had anything else. From your description I'm torn about running out and picking this up give this one a pass. Though as you say it's good for fans of Strange & Norrell I may have to give this a try and just remember it won't be the same experience.

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  4. Interesting review, Monica! I liked very much your observation on the contrast between 'faerie' and 'fairy' :)

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  5. Agree with your post 100%. I loved Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but I don't think the collection of stories worked quite as well. I do hope Clarke produces another novel, though. By the way, are you a Strangite or a Norrellite?!

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  6. I was not aware of this book. I have her Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on my unread shelf still.

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  7. I am not much for short stories, but your review of this one has definitely piqued my interest. I love the women with the power aspect, as well as the idea of "magic" that doesn't involve the usual hocus pocus type stuff. I will certainly look into this; thanks!

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