Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories
Bloomsbury (hardback)
Copyright 2006
235 pages

Mr. Aubrey is writing downe all that he can remember of the customes of former times. He smells of brandy and chalke and is finely spotted all over with Inke. He haz pieces of paper in all his pockets on which he is writing his Histories. He is a Member of the Royal society. He is my deare Friend. He is putting down all the lives of Great and Ingeniose men so that their Genius may not be forgot. Mr. Aubrey sayz that he is like a man plucking out spars and relicks from the Shipwreck of Time and tossing them upon the sand. But, sayz Mr. Aubrey, the Waters of Oblivion have the best of it.

--From On Lickerish Hill

I picked up The Ladies of Grace Adieu from my library on a whim. It was on the "newly released" bookshelf and it rather jumped out at me. I'd read a review or two but really didn't know what to expect. Short stories about fairies and magic? I thought that was what I remembered; but, if anything, it was the old-style cover with charming pink flowers that clinched the deal. I didn't even look inside.

At home, I read the first and title story: The Ladies of Grace Adieu. The story of three magical ladies charmed me so completely that I was actually a little nervous about reading the next short story. That's the problem with an anthology; you just never know whether the next story is going to be as exciting, interesting, or awful as the last one. But, then I read the second story, On Lickerish Hill - about a young woman who needs a fairy's help but has no idea how to get herself out of the tangle of his requirements - and I was completely hooked. Add to the charm and magic of Clarke's stories the stunning illustrations by Charles Vess and you have a book that deserves a place on the good shelves and a few rereads.

Darned if it didn't have to be a library book. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a copy of my own. I'm not going to go into great detail except to say that I thought the stories were incredibly inventive and captivating (because it's raining, here, and that means the migraine has returned). There was only one story that I felt left me hanging and I decided to just give it my own mental ending; just a quarter-point off for that tiny bit of dangling.


Coming up: A Wahoo! Wednesday post . . . and I still need to write a Chunkster Check-in post.

This week and next may be a couple of light-posting weeks because the kiddo is taking the Red Cross Lifesaving Course and attending after-school swim practice with the high school team. Lots of driving and sitting poolside for Mom. There is gunk in my dryer from a piece of gum the youngster left in his jeans pocket, so I have a backlog of wet beach towels that I need to get to; but, first I have to figure out how to remove gunk from a device that heats without blowing up my home. Suggestions are welcome. More later!


  1. There is this stuff called "Goo Gone" that I use to take price stickers off books, that might work on your gum problem.

    Thank goodness my boys don't chew, they leave used tissues in the pockets of their jeans. That's fun.

    Sorry to hear about your headache. I doubt the smell of chlorine will do much to help that.

    I didn't like "The Ladies of Grace Adieu" as much as "Jonathan Strange" but it was still pretty good.

    ps-thanks for pointing me to "Mystery". OMG. I almost split a gut.

  2. Kookie,

    I think I may actually have some Goo Gone, if I can locate it. It's hard to locate anything, in this mess. I may have to take off a week or two and just clean - no blogging, no . . . okay, I can't put away the camera but no goofing. If I can't find the Goo Gone, there's always the monster that eats my every stray penny (Walmart) and fingers crossed that it's not flammable. :)

    Will just began chewing gum, recently, and I think he's just quit. I have to tell him that, though. Yeah, those tissues are a hoot.

    Maybe lightning will come and cancel the pool thing.

    Most people don't like short stories as much as novels, but I really enjoy them. I didn't even realize I like them (when done well) till recently.

    Mystery is a hoot, isn't it?

  3. I loved the book too. Austen and Fantasy combined to make a great story. It's distinct and utterly different.

    PS thought you might like to know about the New Notions 5 Reading Challenge

  4. :D I'm so glad that you liked Ladies of Grace Adieu. I loved the actual book itself. It looks and feels like a Victorian period fairy tale book. Vess is one of my favorite artists around today. He's incredible with fantasy art. And the stories were so good. I just loved everything about that book.

    Hope your migraine goes away soon :( Always a bummer. I got one yesterday and luckily it only hung around for one day.

  5. I love the cover of this book! When I first saw it, I thought it was an old Victorian book. We have a lot of those in this town and I just assumed it was one of them.

  6. John,

    Exactly; excellent description. I loved the fact that those stories were so wildly imaginative and the author has such a distinctive (and very fun) voice. I'll peek at the challenge, thanks. :)


    I'm so glad you reviewed the book; I think yours was one of two reviews that made me think, "Okay, gotta find that one." :) It was definitely a joy to read. I love that feeling when you're reading something and realize it's such a great experience that you know you'll want to revisit it.

    I wondered if you had a migraine, too. My former bookstore boss and I always got migraines when the weather shifted dramatically. Glad yours is gone. I'm pain-free but a little dopey, at the moment. I hate that fuzzy feeling but I'm glad not to be in pain!!!


    I think the cover is brilliant in that way; it looks just perfect for the tone of the stories. Have you read it? If not, you must. It's loads of fun. :)

  7. We'll forgive you for the slow down, Nancy. :-)

    I am glad to hear you enjoyed The Ladies of Grace Adieu. My husband enjoyed it just as much. One of these days, I'll get to it. :-)

  8. Thank you, Wendy. :)

    Oh, cool! I'm glad to hear your husband enjoyed the book. It's always great when a spouse is into reading, too! Yep, you need to read it if only to share the experience with him. My husband and I have wildly divergent taste, but it's so nice when we can chat about a book because we've both read it.

  9. Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much. I forget, have you read Jonathan Strange? It's such a great cover! I try not to buy too many hardbacks but this was one I couldn't resist. Looking forward to reading it.

  10. Wow, haven't heard of this one. Might have to have a copy! :D

  11. Nat,

    It does have a beautiful cover, doesn't it? Nope, I haven't read Jonathan Strange. It's so huge that it intimidated me when it was new; I don't know that I ever really even knew what it was about; but, now I want to read it!


    I can't believe you haven't heard of this book! It's loads of fun. You'll have to get your hands on a copy, definitely. I wonder if Heather is the other blogger who mentioned it; she's a fairytale/magic person, right?

  12. I've got this one on my wishlist, glad to hear it's a good one. Have you read her other one, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? I've gotten about halfway through it but no further, which I keep meaning to remedy - perhaps in time to count it as a Chunkster!

  13. Lesley,

    I hope you enjoy Grace Adieu as much as I did. Nope, I haven't read Jonathan Strange, etc. I really avoided the book because of its size. Now that I've read Grace Adieu and know I enjoy her writing style, I plan to read it, eventually. Not right away, though - too much else is already on the agenda!


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