Monday, November 21, 2011

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke

This is a shorter, less daunting offering from Susanna Clarke, who gave us the weighty and (ultimately for me unreadable) Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. A few of the stories are quite good; the first one, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, is clever and original and got me all excited to read more. But I should have been tipped off by the book’s (fictional) introduction by the (fictional) professor James Sutherland, Director of Sidhe Studies at the University of Aberdeen, about how Clarke’s collection seeks to illuminate the study of magic and faerie throughout British history. Instead of using a coherent storytelling voice, Clarke has created a mishmash of stories featuring wildly different narrative styles and devices, and sprinkled with faux scholarship and obscure literary and historical references. It didn’t matter than I liked the first story because its style and substance bore no resemblance to any story that followed.

I suppose for true devotees of fantasy (especially faerie-centered fantasy) this approach wouldn’t be a problem but I was just looking for something consistently entertaining and I felt a little bit cheated. The story The Ladies of Grace Adieu is set in the 19th century England of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell and made me think that maybe I should go back and try again to read that book. But I did try, and it was just Too Much. Remember the footnotes (all 185 of them)?

(Book 35, 2011)

3 comments:

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

Did you ever see the movie "Photographing Faeries" with Toby Stephens? 19th century England and their fascination with and belief in magical creatures. Fairly good movie as I recall. Maybe more fun than reading another book?!

Anonymous said...

Calicoreaction.wordpress.com just posted about not finishing Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. I tried twice and just couldn't get through that book. - Lisa

Nicola said...

I loved Strange - it drew me in from the beginning when a stone statue starts to speak. Didn't enjoy this one Ladies quite as much. Would certainly read more by this writer.

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