She is so good at making a whole world out of hints and references Notice that she never has to get out of character and explain anything to the reader, she is always able to make the dialogue and the situations do the work for her, letting the action of her scenes reveal everything This not only creates a strong, confident authorial voice, it also means that she is never obliged to break her pacing to catch us up , and so the thick, vibrant tone of her stories is never interrupted or betrayed.
Yet for all of the similarity of their setting and theme, each story s tone is very different Each may have aspects of the other, but overall, it is remarkable how completely she is able to shift tone between stories that could have been very similar, under a less skilled pen.
Some are very funny, others intriguing, and several rather unsettling The general theme which binds these stories is the use of magic by women, and the place it holds for them Clarke lamented that, in her grand work, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, she did not have the opportunity to explore the experience of women in her world at least, not as fully as she could have wished.
She did not want to make the error of betraying her well researched setting by including female characters who were too thoroughly modern to make sense in that period It is probably the single most common error amongst writers of historical fiction that they tend to include protagonists who are inexplicably modern feminists who bear little relationship to the women of the time.
I am glad that Clarke wanted to avoid this, but it is unfortunate that she was not able to find a way, within Norrell, to make a female character who was strong and central but not in an anachronistic way A woman does not have to be acerbic, mighty, wealthy, or politically powerful in order to be strong, she just needs to have as much personality and self reliance as the male characters.
But we do get that vision here and it is an interesting one Her magic is most definitely magical, as it is not embodied in simple tools and objects, but permeates all parts of reality, thick with idea, contradiction, and unpredictability Her magic is a living thing, capricious and wonderful.
The illustrations were excellent, with Vess evoking the classic style of the high period of English Fairy Tales effectively than any other modern artist I have seen And as with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, the binding, cover, layout, and font selection were all so carefully chosen to harmonize together that it warms a bibliophile s heart.
The fact that such an interesting, unusual, complex book has become critically and economically successful is actually astounding It s so rare that things all come together and everyone seems to get it right.
Usually, when I hear the phrase feminist rewrite of a fairy tale , I shudder and think of a terrible place that female genre authors go to die, to be read only in compulsory Women s Studies classes Yet there are a few who are capable of defying convention and actually doing something worthwhile for fairytale women Angela Carter, and Susanna Clarke.
This is because to them, feminism does not seem to mean making women into men, it does not mean making them masculine, forceful, ruthless, and unemotional It does not mean making them better Often, it means showing their flaws, because that is the only way to let the reader understand their personal experience We are not all equally human in our perfection, but in our foibles.
And for a perfect unveiling of our foibles, few are equal to Susanna Clarke.
My List of Suggested Fantasy books 3ish stars As with any collection of short stories, there are some brilliant pieces here and some duds Since these stories are all or less based in the same alternate history universe established in a previous book by the author, there are perhaps specific expectations present than in other collections For the most part, this book holds up under those expectations Susanna Clarke has achieved a supreme level mastery of language Her prose is incredible It doesn t feel like schtick, it feels natural and perfect There is every bit as much wit and humor as in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell And then there s the world she s created full of magic and wicked faeries and proper English ladies and gentlemenDid you ever look into an English novel Well, do not trouble yourself It is nothing but a lot of nonsense about girls with fanciful names getting married Fortunately she includes some really great female characters in these stories that make up for the lack in quantity in JSMN That s sort of the basis for these stories So it s surprising that there are one or two stories that really only mention magic tangentially and some that after reading I thought, Was there really a point to that There s no way these short stories could have captured the same magic or reach the same breadth of scope as JSMR but, if nothing else, it felt great to return to this wonderful world for a little while I am not so patiently waiting for Clarke to give us another novel Favorite stories The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Mrs Mabb, and especially Tom Brightwind.
Least favorite stories Mr Simonelli, Antickes and Frets
Rating four very satisfied stars of fiveThe Publisher Says Following the enormous success of 2004 bestseller and critics favorite Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke delivers a delicious collection of ten stories set in the same fairy crossed world of 19th century England With Clarke s characteristic historical detail and diction, these dark, enchanting tales unfold in a slightly distorted version of our own world, where people are bedeviled by mischievous interventions from the fairies With appearances from beloved characters from her novel, including Jonathan Strange and Childermass, and an entirely new spin on certain historical figures, including Mary, Queen of Scots, this is a must have for fans of Susanna Clarke s and an enticing introduction to her work for new readers Some of these stories have never before been published others have appeared in the New York Times or in highly regarded anthologies In this collection, they come together to expand the reach of Clarke s land of enchantment and anticipate her next novel My Review What a delectable cocktail peanut of a book I wish it had been available before Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, because it would have made a perfect gateway drug to the longer, intense, and exhausting high of the Big One But that s like complaining that you only won 10 million in the lottery oh shut up is the best response.
Nine stories set in Miss Clarke s vastly improved nineteenth century England, the one where magical beings are and the operations of magic happen to all the people These operations aren t always pleasant, or even kind Mrs Mabb , Antickes and Frets sometimes, though, the balance of justice gets a magical turbocharge with satisfying results Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby , John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner and for the rest Sheer pleasure to read.
Clarke creates this magical England carefully, a term I use despite its connotations of grindhood and laborious tedium the care, gratefully, is virtually invisible to the reader It shows itself in the effortless naturalism of these clearly contra natural stories It is a sign of a master storyteller working at close to peak performance One never thinks, Oh c mon about the antics of the magical characters, since they are provided with clear, though sometimes skewed, motives for their actions It s a pleasure to meet John Uskglass and see his interaction with the mundane world in all its bilateral confusion and misunderstanding Tom Brightwind and Dr Montefiore are the classic mismatched buddies that I do honestly meet in real life even though one is a fairy that doesn t change their dynamic.
The physical book, the hardcover edition that I have anyway, is as pleasurable to possess as the stories themselves are The handsome cloth binding, stamped with Charles Voss s beautiful floral illustration, begins the pleasure beautiful oxblood colored endsheets are rich, inviting, somewhat unsettlingly colored then the line drawings within the text and the handsome, clear typography complete the impression of careful, thoughtful presentation of these delightful tales.
Anyone who quailed at the sheer massiveness of the tome Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell should read these stories, and understand that equal pleasures of a sustained sort await between those widely separated covers Anyone who simply loves good storytelling and good stories told should run and get this book It s very much worth your time and money This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.
0 Unported License.
The governess was not much liked in the village She was too tall, too fond of books, too grave, and, a curious thing, never smiled unless there was something to smile atWe delve in to 19th Century England, to made up places that are eerily similar to those that existed then and do now The stories are all magical some involve human magic users Jonathan Strange himself makes a nice appearance here and some involve those mysterious members of the Other World Some have morals, some have enclosed story lines and some are just stories for the purpose of being stories.
I am not the biggest fan of short stories at the best of times and not even Terry Pratchett can blind me to complete infatuation with them, so I won t be praising these beyond that However, I enjoyed them for what they were, which is dipping back in to the alternate history world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
It isn t necessary to have read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and these stories can be enjoyed very much on their own They re written well and have good story arcs for shorts and offer up a glimpse in to the kind of thing you can expect from Susanna Clarke However, being Short Stories and being Not A Fan, I only found them so so Some were interesting than others, but they re all relatively short and easy enough to get to the end of them without much strain.
Blog Reviews Instagram Twitter In 2004 Susanna Clarke published a groundbreaking book called Jonathan Strange Mr Norrel Written in prose reminiscent of Jane Austen and Horace Walpole, it put a gothic almost romantic spin on the Fantasy genre that surprised and enthralled many, making it an instant bestseller with a cult following of readers who, to this day, simply cannot wait for the sequel Knowing that it took nearly ten years for Clarke to write JSN, it seems than fair to assume that the wait for the said sequel is not yet over and that readers will simply have to be patient for a little while longer So in the meantime why not enjoy ourselves with The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Clarke s first collection of short stories which she published in 2006 While not as good as JSN, it still bears the mark of the author s genius and will by no means be a waste of your precious reading time That is, of course, provided that fairy tales are your cup of teaTHE LADIES OF GRACE ADIEU is the first story in the collection It deals with the friendship of three women and their mutual inclination for ghoulish magic, and is one of my favorites.
ON LICKERISH HILL is Clarke s take on the Rumplestiltskin tale Written as a diary in old fashioned English, it starts with the subtle taste of a delicate vintage then quickly moves on to much bitter notes In other words, not my favorite.
MRS MABB is about a woman whose boyfriend dumps her for the fairy Queen Mab and tries to get him back Will she succeed in her endeavor Well, that s the question, isn t it THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON MISPLACES HIS HORSE is another one of my favorites It recounts how, after entering Faerie, the titular duke manages to rewrite or rather re weave his future to his liking Love it MR SIMONELLI, OR THE FAIRY WIDOWER is the fifth story in the collection, and I, well, didn t care much for this one TOM BRIGHTWIND, OR HOW THE FAIRY BRIDGE WAS BUILT AT THORESBY is absolutely brilliant and I loved every single word of it As for what it s about, well folks, it s all in the title ANTICKES AND FRETS is a very short and brilliant tale about Mary, Queen of Scots, in which Clarke s masterful use of English is reflected in every word A total winner JOHN USKGLASS AND THE CUMBRIAN CHARCOAL BURNER is the last tale of the bunch, and, by and large, my favorite one It is a deceptively unassuming story about the Raven King a main character in JSN and a central one in Clarke s mythology and how he was or less outsmarted by a simple charcoal burner A diamond in the rough of a story, is what it is OLIVIER DELAYEAuthor of the SEBASTEN OF ATLANTIS series This is a collection of short stories by Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell She works the same territory as she did with the novel, and to quite brilliant effect One or two of the stories are connected to the novel but others are not One story is a tip of the hat to Neil Gaiman.
Her style and tone imitate those of the best nineteenth century authors such as Jane Austen The stories are dry, witty and humorous on the surface but capable of great depth, darkness and pathos Yet Clarke is not locked into one particular style, as she brilliantly demonstrates in the story On Lickerish Hill Her theme, to put it simply, is the unpredictability and capriciousness of the sidhe or faery folk These are not the glorious Elves of Tolkien s high epic Neither are they the silly and saccharine Victorian sprites of Lewis Carroll They are a race wild and dangerous, masters of trickery and illusion, capable of friendship, but curiously able to persecute not only their enemies but even their own kin with scarcely a qualm They seem always intent on feeding their egos by impressing, seducing or entrapping gullible humans They are relentless in seeking revenge for the slightest injury done them Reality and logic seem to bend and warp whenever they are in the vicinity Yet, occasionally, some lucky humans can get the upper hand if they are persistent.
Clarke embroiders a fascinating tapestry of folklore, fairy tale and historical detail in this engaging collection.
5 5I m not nearly as put off by short stories as I used to be, but when the author in question has only been experienced via massive tome of snail slow story building and the most mincing of emotional turnabouts thank you, England , my hopes were not high Lucky for me, Clarke can not only deliver her wit and world immersion in minute packaging, but knows how to successfully explore her strengths Of course, it s all very polite and English and even Ye Olde in parts, but that particular Clarkean mix of subtle menace and dry humor that I loved so much in Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell is here in force.
There are eight stories if one does not count the magically inclined academic introduction, four of them tickling my fancy and all of them worth reading JSMN is a wonderful book, but like many wonderful books it suffers from a lack of women Doing Things, and it was someone mentioning Clarke improving on that in this set of stories that first sparked my interest The Ladies of Grace Adieu was both the titular and the first of the stories, and was so well done in terms of building off the older and weightier tome with a fresh female perspective that I do hope Clarke continues it in JSMN s sequel The Ladies of Grace Adieu and their mastery of the morbidly efficient aspects of magic demand it.
The other stories I enjoyed were Mr Simonelli or The Fairy Widower , Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby , and John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner Mr Simonelli is one of the rare epistolary narrators whose all too reliable narration proves disturbing than any obfuscation combined with small town maneuverings of money and Fairy Intrigue, it was a story I was sad to see end Tom Brightwind was so full of hints at social concerns that it almost broke through the English mold of Not Talking About Such Things, leaving me with a great deal of food for thought as all good short stories should Both it and John Uskglass had great moments of humor, the latter proving the the perfect combination of Powerfully Awesome Person Gets Theirs By The Most Absurd Happenings Imaginable that I disturbed people sitting near to me with my cackling Unfortunately for them, I was reading a treebook, so there was no possibility of silent disapproval of the Those Dem Technological Millenials sort At that moment John Uskglass and his court where preparing to go hunting A cow wandered into the stable yard It ambled up to where John Uskglass stood by his horse and began to preach him a sermon in Latin on the wickedness of stealing.
See I m still giggling Whoever s in charge of bringing JSMN to the screen needs to hurry up already so I have an excuse for rereading it Or Clarke could let us know how far along we should expect JSMN s sequel to be published Either one works.
Following The Enormous Success Of Bestseller And Critics Favorite Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell , Susanna Clarke Delivers A Delicious Collection Of Ten Stories Set In The Same Fairy Crossed World Of Th Century England With Clarke S Characteristic Historical Detail And Diction, These Dark, Enchanting Tales Unfold In A Slightly Distorted Version Of Our Own World, Where People Are Bedeviled By Mischievous Interventions From The Fairies With Appearances From Beloved Characters From Her Novel, Including Jonathan Strange And Childermass, And An Entirely New Spin On Certain Historical Figures, Including Mary, Queen Of Scots, This Is A Must Have For Fans Of Susanna Clarke S And An Enticing Introduction To Her Work For New Readers Some Of These Stories Have Never Before Been Published Others Have Appeared In The New York Times Or In Highly Regarded Anthologies In This Collection, They Come Together To Expand The Reach Of Clarke S Land Of Enchantment And Anticipate Her Next Novel Fall I read Susanna Clarke s novel Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell back in 2005 It is long I had the audio version from the library I used to listen an hour or a day during a long commute, yet I had exhausted all allowed renewals and still wasn t done So I became a scofflaw, until they were about to send out the cavalry to get their book back She is a magical writer She is embedded in some other reality in her writing, the reality of some earlier mindset that we still recognize when she embroiders it for us And in two stories she indeed has her characters embroider, stitching the future into reality or ripping it out as the case may be In The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse, the said gentleman s clumsy attempts, required by necessity, provide an apt metaphor for politicians then and now well, at least, now Her fairies are not Disney fairies far from it Nor are they Tinkerbell, my go to fairy reference point Fairies are big, powerful creatures They are men Not that there aren t women fairies, but they are under paternalistic rule Power dominates.
Fairies are amoral They attract women and have their way with them They have little attachment to the offspring they scatter about although they may need human women to breed them and sometimes as wet nurses Human women have the same power differentials, so some illicit magic can come in handy to level the playing field In the first story the title story Jonathan Strange puts in an appearance He exhibits consternation at the antics of the titular ladies, but, under the circumstances, what choice did they have It seems they protected the defenseless.
We were listening on a car trip On one story I fell asleep twice at the same point and never could discover the cause of the narrator s demise But I learned fairies can make you think you are surrounded by beauty and freedom when filth and imprisonment are the reality And they are hard to kill not immortal but death resistant They want to get their way and stop at nothing.
But they don t always get it In a Rumpelstiltskin like story the bride does find out the Pharisee s name Make that the fairy, the one who lives on Lickerish Hill Watch out for conflating your other and your folklore In a later story, Jewish physician David ben Israel uses his knack for argumentation to try and make the pesky fairy Tom Brightwind mend his ways and use his powers for good In what may be the earliest retrojection of Judeo Christian values, this story compares and contrasts the moral values of Christians and Jews with those of fairies A version of using the enemy from outer space to bring about peace on earth A small but noteworthy aspect of this long story Ladies, if a lady fairy steals your intended, be prepared to get stronger and fight back I especially loved the last story A lowly peasant type done wrong by the king of Fairy is vindicated with the help of heavenly saints yet prohibited from exacting the harsh revenge he desires He is so easily made happy and content.
Susanna Clarke does inhabit an alternative reality, one to which she can grant us entry, but she wasn t always a writer She did work in publishing, and she taught English as a second language in Turin, Italy and Bilbao, Spain, and in 1993, when she was about 34, she took a five day creative writing course in fantasy and science fiction She had been rereading Lord of the Rings Also, while she was in Spain, she began having a waking dream of a man in 18th century clothes talking to English tourists in Venice It was then she began to try and write her novel Around the same time she took a job editing cookbooks that she kept ten years which is how long she took to write her novel So, writing it was even interminable than reading it She says she would never have begun if she had known how long it would take her So let her be an inspiration, you aspiring novelists