From Publishers Weekly
Like Clarke's first novel, the bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
, these eight stories (seven previously published) are set in an England where magic is a serious but sometimes neglected field of study. The first story sees the erudite Strange tangling with country witches. Others show Austenesque concern with love and its outcomes ("Did you not hear me ask you to marry me?"), often involving fairies. In "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse," the duke visits Faerie, a kingdom located on the other side of the wall in the village of Wall (a location Clarke borrows from Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess), and meets a woman whose needlework affects the future. In the footnoted "Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge...," a "monumental" stone bridge is built in one afternoon. Clarke humorously revisits Rumplestiltzkin in "On Lickerish Hill," in which it is revealed that "Irishmen have tailes neare a quarter of a yard longe." Clarke may have trouble reaching a new audience in short form, as the stories provide less opportunity to get lost in fantastical material, but the author's many fans will be glad to have these stories in one volume. Illus. by Charles Vess not seen by PW
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The eight stories in Ladies of Grace
resemble Jonathan Strange
in that fantastical creations change history, the 19th century takes on a modern spin, and charm and sophistication ooze off the pages. Here, Susanna Clarke casts a close eye on women, from fairies to damsels in distresswho, not surprisingly, tend to save themselves. Despite overall praise for the collection, reviewers agree that Clarke hasn't challenged herself enough. While critics lauded "Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby," "John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner," and "Mrs. Mabb," some called other stories slight. An academic framework doesn't help. In the end, Ladies of Grace
weaves a similar magic as Jonathan Strange
, but perhaps the book is not magical enough.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.