Read for the RIP III Reading Challenge.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was the way that the author wove the fairy aspects of the book into the story in such a way that it came off just as much as a historical fiction book, as much as a fantasy book. In the same vein, The Ladies of Grace Adieu can be seen through the lens of either a supplemental history text, or as charming fairy stories. The forward actually gives the stories some historical context, which is amusing. (The illustrations by Charles Vess are also charming additions.)
Several of the stories, including “On Lickerish Hill” and “Mrs. Mabb” have the air of classic fairy tales. My favorite of this bunch is “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”, where a lowly charcoal burner gets the best of the Raven King.
The other stories have a more historical flavor. The title story is the only one to feature characters from JS&MN. I got a kick out of “Antickes and Frets”, which features Bess Hartwick, the ancestress of dukes of Devonshire, a family currently being featured in the film The Duchess. (I read a fascinating real book about this family in college, and I love when they show up in historical, or even false historical notes in my reading.)
My only slight disappointment was “The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse”, which is supposed to be set in the world of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. It didn’t necessarily strike me as any different than the other stories of this book, and I didn’t see the need for it to be set in the Stardust world.
I definitely enjoyed this book, and would be very pleased to read any other offerings that Susanna Clarke might be able to produce from this lovely fairy-tinged version of our world.