The Ladies of Grace Adieu

“Above all remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.”

I was in love with this book from the first line. The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke is a collection of fairy tales. The title story returns to the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a book I have gushed about in a couple of other blog entries. I see a lot of reviewers comparing Clarke’s style to Jane Austin, and I think that is accurate. If you like classic sounding English literature sprinkled with magic, these are the books for you.

Now, I must admit, I am a bit of an Anglophile. I have been enjoying English books since my days of Paddington Bear. Just before I started writing this, I watched an episode of Escape to the Country­– a show where people look for homes in the English countryside. And when I recently discovered that the English think Americans are barbaric for microwaving water for tea, I decided to get an electric kettle.

 The Ladies of Grace Adieu is very English. The introduction claims this book to be a collection of tales selected to educate readers about the history of magic and fairies in the British Isles, as brought to you by a Professor James Sutherland, Director of Sidhe Studies at the University of Aberdeen. This is very in keeping the spirit of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Clarke maintains a similar style and humor throughout this collection as well. My favorites include the title story, which teaches the lesson that lady magicians are not to be trifled with, and “Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower,” a tale told by a man discovering his father was not Italian but was, in fact, a fairy. As an added bonus, Neil Gaiman fans (like myself) will enjoy a story set in the town of Wall, from Stardust.

I also enjoyed reading about the Raven King, a magician who figures heavily into Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. It would be fun if Clarke were to do a collection of stories just about the Raven King as a companion piece.

I hope, most dearly, that Clarke publishes another book. This collection of tales will have to get me through until then, and I am glad that I have them.

Rating: ★★★★★


5 thoughts on “The Ladies of Grace Adieu

  1. Such a delightful review of a delicious book, different from but as dark as its companion volume. You mention its Englishness, which is true enough, but it’s an Englishness seen through a glass, darkly, a sinister world in which right is left and left is somehow … not right.

    You’re clearly an avid Anglophile! Interesting you mention ‘Escape to the Country’ as we went on an episode of one of the earliest series way back in 2003, which is how we ended up in Wales, a Celtic and at times truly fey country, shot through with a nonconformist streak. And definitely not English!

    By the way, I came here from the Joan Aiken website, another delightful writer whose writings I’m obsessed with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know anyone who had even heard of Joan Aiken until I joined the blog world. Since then, I found that wonderful Joan Aiken website and have talked to a couple of others who have read her books too. She was one of my favorite authors growing up, and I still look for any titles I don’t have at any bookstore I go into.

      I found “Escape to the Country” on Netflix; they only have the 2014 series. Hopefully they will get more! I’ve seen a couple of episodes in Wales, and it seems lovely.

      Thank you for visiting my blog!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Despite her North American background Joan seems to me to be the quintessential British — or at least English — writer. She’s a niche writer, certainly, with only her The Wolves of Willoughby Chase impinging on the consciousness of the general reading public, but her critical reputation is huge and, I hope, growing. Like you I try to acquire titles I don’t have, especially from charity shops (thrift stores, I think you call them) as so many of her adult books appear to be out of print.

        Wales is lovely, and I speak as a city boy — wonderful scenery, fascinating history and an ancient language (which I’ve only just scraped the surface of).

        I’m looking forward to exploring more of your posts, both for new views on old favourites of mine and for introductions to unfamiliar titles and authors!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I go to Amazon as a last resort, if I’m desperate! But I’m all for serendipity — I like nice surprises where books are concerned — and I prefer to shop locally or to support charities by buying ‘previously owned/loved’ titles. 🙂


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