Sunday, 22 March 2009
The Ladies of Grace Adieu
The Ladies of Grace Adieu (and other stories) by Susanna Clarke. This is another one I went searching for after reading a review and what a pleasure it turned out to be. I am definitely going to read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is her other book. In fact the first story (The Ladies of Grace Adieu) features the character of Mr Strange, who appears to get his comeuppance when faced with a somewhat feisty group of young women in a sleepy (fictional) gloucestershire village. This is a book of fairy stories, but not nice sweet children's stories, they show the old fashioned, much more gruesome side of fairies. Some are reworkings of old folk tales, like 'On Lickerlish Hill', which I recognised at once as Rumpelstiltskin and one of the others is set in a world created by Neil Gaiman. It is rather hard to describe or even to explain why you might like to read it other than to say it is like no other book of short stories I have ever read. Reading it is like going back in time several hundred years and being totally taken up with the folklore and superstitions of the era. Although the fairies are technically all powerful in several of the stories they are shown that they cannot always get the better of the mere mortals, and I get the feeling there was usually a 'moral' lesson historically attached to such stories. The way the characters talk and their manners and their behaviour all adds to the atmosphere. One story is written in a weird dialect (you just have to go with the flow as to begin with it just looks like really bad spelling) and in most of them the author uses old fashioned spellings and turns of phrase. When I found it in the library there were two copies; one paperback and then one lovely embossed fabric cover hardback with one of those silky bookmarks attached at the spine, and it made the experience somewhat multi sensory to be reading from what felt like an 'old fashioned' book, it seemed more appropriate to the stories inside.