the ladies of grace adieu

Title :: The Ladies of Grace Adieu
Author :: Susanna Clarke
Completed :: Mar 29 2008
Challenges :: OUT II
Rating :: 3/5

It's been awhile since I've read anything involving faeries, haven't run into any books that fall under that genre in my quest to conquer the 1001. That's why Carl's challenge is so perfect, it inspires me to break from the 'normal' once in awhile and to pick up some of these fantastic books. Doesn't hurt that prizes are involved too! Although I own a copy of Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell ($5 for the hardback at Borders!) I have yet to read it. I bought it at a time when I had a leaning tower of library books to get through before moving to Liverpool and since the book is rather weighty there was no way it was going to fit in the suitcase. But after reading Ladies of Grace Adieu I definitely want to pick it up when I get home, especially since some of the characters popped up in the pages of these short stories.

I liked how each story was different in its speech. I feel that the accent of a character and the spelling of a piece can really help the reader to imagine the setting. The dialect of On Lickerish Hill took some getting used to but it wasn't hard to eventually fall into the rhythm, the eye learns quickly to gloss over those 'spelling mistakes'. The Suffolk dialect really helped to place oneself in that area of the country, away from the 'proper speech' of London.

I enjoyed the title piece The Ladies of Grace Adieu, which apparently was inspired by a footnote from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Three ladies, Cassandra Parbringer, Miss Tobias and Mrs. Field are close friends who in their spare time study magic and have become magicians despite its being a mostly male occupation. When Captain Winbright comes to visit his nieces who are governed by Miss Tobias, it becomes clear that being a loving uncle is not high on his list and that he arrived solely to look into the inheritence involved. The ladies join forces and cause a bit of mischief of their own in order to ensure that the young girls will be safe and that life will contine in Grace Adieu as it always has.

Mrs. Mabb was a charming tale of deception involving a very fine veil between this world and the world of faerie. Venetia returns from a trip to Manchester to find that her beloved Captain Fox is soon to be engaged to another beauty. She becomes determined to see this person for herself and everytime she's given directions (to a different location) she never makes it and ends up badly bruised and cut. It would appear that Venetia is suffering either from dementia or a mischevious faerie has cast a spell over Captian Fox and the eyes of Venetia. I especially loved the episode where she is confronted by what appears to everyone else to be little green butterflies but to Venetia are small little faeries that she becomes determined to squish.

Mr. Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower was another tale involving deception. Alessandro Simonelli is a poor country rector new to Allhope. Upon his arrival he is faced with the task of delivering the baby of John Hollyshoes. Simonelli is repulsed by the shape of the house, it is filthy and utterly disgusting. It soon becomes obvious that he is the only one who can see the truth as others view the house and everything in it as rich and beautiful. Who is this man that wallows in filth and yet appears to be bedecked in jewels? He is a faerie of course and is convinced that he is related in some way to Simonelli and is determined to get to the bottom of it. Written as if from the pages of Simonelli's diary we learn how he tries to save the beautiful ladies of his parish from the dirty Hollyshoes.

Antickes and Frets involves a fictional twist on the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots. When Mary learns that her guardian Bess murdered her first husband through her talent of embroidery, Mary is determined to learn the skill in order to do the same to Queen Elizabeth. This is the second story in the collection involving mischevious embroidery, the first being The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse. This tale takes place in the world created by Neil Gaiman in Stardust. The Duke of Wellington follows his runaway horse through the gap in the wall into the world of faerie. In a cottage he meets a young woman busily at work over her embroidery, which turns out to be blocks portraying everything Wellington did once passing through the wall up to the future which reveals that he will be attacked by a knight who is even now on his way to the cottage. Luckily for Wellington, a pair of embroidery scissors are there to save the day.

Overall a very delightful collection which has put me into the mood of the challenge. Now if only I could located Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, I seem only to be able to find the graphic novel. Is it the same as the novel?

Other Thoughts ::
: a work in progress
: you're next - leave a comment!

. listening . satellite . dave matthews band . under the table and dreaming .


posted by Ashleigh @ 11:57,


At 14 April 2008 at 14:34, Blogger Carl V. said...

I still have Jonathan Strange on my to read pile (my to finish pile actually since I have started and enjoyed it) as well and it is the weighty tome issue that often gets in the way of me diving back in.

I have read the Stardust inspired story in this collection and enjoyed it so I really should get back to the rest. You make it sound quite delightful. So much so that as I have just finished a book I may go ahead and read this one next.

Great review!

At 14 April 2008 at 15:42, Blogger Danielle said...

I loved the Duke of Wellington story--very clever! It's not often that embroidery or embroidery scissors turn up in fiction! I think I might have to read JS&MN for the challenge now, too.

At 14 April 2008 at 20:37, Blogger Carl V. said...

Oh lord, please don't read the graphic novel of Neverwhere. The art isn't great and the story is slim. Please pretend it doesn't exist and read the book. :)

At 14 April 2008 at 20:58, Blogger Nymeth said...

I have this sitting on my shelf but I haven't read it yet. I need to amend that. I loved Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, though.

The Neverwhere graphic novel is based on the novel, but it's not by Neil Gaiman - it was adapted by someone else. I hadn't read it, though, so I can't say how good an adaptation it is.

At 14 April 2008 at 22:14, Blogger Ashleigh said...

Thanks for the advice on the graphic novel of Neverwhere. I had a feeling it probably wasn't the same thing. I'm afraid I may have to substitue another Gaiman novel then because I can't seem to find a copy of Neverwhere in any of the libraries here.


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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