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The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories Paperback – October 2, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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 distress—who, 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (October 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913837
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Simons VINE VOICE on October 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those who have read _Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_: This book is essentially a collection of short stories of the same kind as the various snippets included as footnotes in _Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_, but of greater length -- not so much a sequel as a collection of spin-off tales. It even includes at least one story referred to in that book but never detailed therein (the tale of John Uskglass and the Cumbrian charcoal burner). Only one of the stories features either Strange or Norell as characters, but all of them (with the possible exception of "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces his Horse," which is set in or perhaps overlaps with, the setting of Neil Gaiman's _Stardust_) are set in and flesh out the same world. All share the same dryly witty, intelligent, intellectually charming writing style that made the prior novel so worthwhile. In some ways, this collection shows more technical expertise than _Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_, because the stories include a number of different viewpoints, use different stylistic devices, and achieve a different range of effects than found in the novel. The author has a wider range to play with here, outside the limits of a single novel's plotline, and she takes excellent advantage of that.

For those who have not:

If you like Jane Austen, have a strong taste for 18th or 19th century fiction or fantasy stories, like Neil Gaiman's _Stardust_ or Lord Dunsany's works, or find the thought of an mix of those two sources appealing, this book will probably appeal to you very strongly and I recommend it highly.
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Format: Hardcover
The eight short stories in this collection are set in the same England as Clarke's popular novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (which I have not read), an England in which magic is at least nominally present and faeries are human-like creatures with very considerable powers. All but one of the stories, which range in length from a few pages to 45 pages, have been previously published over the last ten years in various anthologies such as Starlight 1, 2, and 3, and Black Swan, White Raven and Black Heart, Ivory Bones.

Although the leadoff story, which gives the book it's title, concerns Dr. Strange and a trio of witches, the bulk of the stories (and certainly the more memorable ones), revolve around the capricious doings of various powerful fairies. A somewhat less powerful fairy is at the heart of he second story, "On Likerish Hill", which riffs on the Rumplestilsken story. The third story, "Mrs. Mabb", is an excellent old-fashioned tale about a poor young woman whose fiancee has been ensorcelled by a fairy queen. "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse," is a comic interlude featuring the famous hero of the Peninsular and Napoleonic Wars, and how he survives an accidental visit the the Fairy Kingdom.

Another longer, and somewhat more engaging story is "Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower", in which a Cambridge scholar turned local rector matches wits with the local fairy lord. Another long and fairly decent story is "Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge...," in which a Jewish doctor and fairy lord making their way cross-country stumble upon a village severely in need of a bridge. What happens is somewhat obvious, but it's a story well told. The seventh story, "Antickes and Frets" is a somewhat perfunctory one about Mary Queen of Scots and some magical embroidery.
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Format: Hardcover
The moment I finished Susanna Clarke's wonderful first novel "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell", I wished that there was more of it. It was a long wait, but finally the fans of Clarke's magically-soaked nineteenth-century Britain have a sequel - of sorts. Clarke presents eight short stories concerned with the presence of Faerie in England, and its influence on human inhabitants, all set in the same universe (with the same magical structure) as her previous work. However, it's more of a companion piece than a sequel, considering it does not continue the story told in her novel, but expands on several of its ideas and subplots.

This is particularly the case in the title story, "The Ladies of Grace Adieu", in which we find out why Jonathan Strange was so eager to remove his brother-in-law from the province of Gloucestershire (as mentioned in footnote 2, chapter 43 of "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell"). The ladies in question are Mrs Field and her step-niece Miss Cassandra Parbringer, who are close friends with Miss Tobias, a young governess who is the warden of two young heiresses in a wealthy estate. When the women are confronted by both a gold-digging young captain and a suspicious Jonathan Strange, they take matters into their own hands - calling up their own magical arts.

It is a mysterious, charming and beautifully written story, capturing what her fans love best about Clarke's work: her delicate prose, her sense of humour, her grasp of the darker side of Faerie, and her refusal to tell the reader everything. Instead, we are given precisely what we need to make sense of the story, whilst many of the details are left mysteriously obscure.
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