Friday, November 19, 2010

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke (audio).

Title/Author: The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. (Audio)

Genre: Fantasy.

Publisher: MacMillan Audio.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: Venetia from “Mrs. Mabb.”

Favorite quote:

All in all: Lovely.

Synopsis: Fans of Clarke's bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell should be pleased with this book, as the stories collected here are very much cut from the same cloth. The stories (seven previously published and one original tale, "John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner") deal with fairies and the history of English magic, and are told in the same Victorian style that made JS&MN so distinct. Prebble (who also narrated JS&MN) returns and once again triumphantly brings Clarke's richly imagined world to life. Sharing narrative duties this time around is Porter, who is equally skilled at playing prim and high-born ladies as she is using more folksy tones in "On Lickerish Hill." The footnotes that bogged down the audio edition of JS&MN are mostly absent, and the narrators' very different styles work well to give each story its own distinct feel. A lyrical and thoroughly enjoyable collection from a burgeoning master of fantasy literature.

What I didn’t like:   A few of the stories were long and had so many characters that I got confused and had trouble following what happened.  I’m not sure if this would have been the case if I had read the book.

What I liked: The narrators! They had the best English accents ever! Davina Porter and Simon Prebble did a great job of "reading to me" and they differentiated between the characters successfully. 

Some of the stories I liked more than others. I thought it was interesting that one mentioned the Raven King as a mythical figure. I read Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead and the Raven King is very prominent so I wonder if this is a British legend and I would love to learn more. “On Likerish Hill” was a re-telling of Rumpelstilskin but the book said it was a re-telling of “Tom-Tit-Tot,” so that is another story I would like to research more.

My favorite story was “Mrs. Mabb.” It is about a young woman, Venetia who is in love with a soldier, Mr. Fox. Venetia went away for a short time to visit a sick friend and when she came back Mr. Fox was apparently living with the mysterious Mrs. Mabb. Venetia tries very hard to find where Mrs. Mabb lives but finds herself glamoured each time she does. Finally, her tenaciousness pays off and Mr. Fox is released from Mrs. Mabb’s spell and the two are reunited. It is not overly dramatic but it is still engaging and enchanting. Maybe it was the characters or the way the story is told, but there was something about it that I really enjoyed.

I also liked “The Duke of Wellington Misplaces his Horse.” The author borrows the town of Wall from Neil Gamain and the Duke wanders into fairy and has to embroider his way out of it.  I thought it was cute because he isn't handy at needlework and ultimately fashions stick figure drawings.  Another story which concerned embroidery was “Antikes and Frets” which was about Mary Queen of Scots when she was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth. She tries to use magic in embroidery to bring down Queen Elizabeth, but we all know how that turned out in the end.

I didn’t read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, but apparently these stories refer to footnotes in that book. The stories were very sweet and reminded me of Jane Austen’s world but with faeries. I think this would be a nice book to curl up with a nice hot cup of tea...and maybe some scones.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Jenny said...

These stories do sound cute! And it's so nice the narrators had fabulous accents, that would ruin it for me if they had odd voices or sounded like they were trying too hard to do an accent:) Thanks for sharing this one!

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Penelope Sanchez said...

I'm a big fan of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (both the book and the TV dramatization) and learned about this book when I went to see what else the author has written. Not all writers are good at both short stories and novels, but Ms. Clarke definitely is.

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