Monday, October 22, 2012
The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
This is a collection of eight short stories that return readers to the world of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. As I enjoyed Simon Prebble's narration of Strange & Norrell, I returned to that format to hear these stories. Prebble shares narration duty with Davina Porter whose undeniable skill I enjoyed even more than Mr. Prebble's and that is saying quite a lot.
Since all but one of these stories were previously published elsewhere, they vary from mere fragments (The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse) to retold fairy tales (Lickerish Hill). These are almost like some of the longer footnotes from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which often meander away to tell fully imagined stories before returning to the main narrative.
The one constant is Clarke's skill at conveying readers to a magical England in the style of well known 19th-century writers such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Clarke has a dry wit which enlivens many of the tales and a good imagination for weaving attention holding yarns. I enjoyed all these stories quite a lot. If you are wondering whether to take the plunge into Strange & Norrell, these stories might be a good test of the waters.
Originally reviewed for SFFaudio.