The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

Susanna Clarke

Bloomsbury USA



256 Pages


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From the author of the award-winning, internationally bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell comes an enchanting collection of stories. Set in versions of England that bear an uncanny resemblance to the world of Strange and Norrell, these stories contain all the ingredients of good fairy tales: petulant princesses, vengeful owls, ladies who pass their time in embroidering terrible fates, endless paths in deep, dark woods, and houses that never appear the same way twice. Their heroines and heroes include the Duke of Wellington, a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor, Mary, Queen of Scots, Jonathan Strange, and the Raven King himself. The Ladies of Grace Adieu is an introduction to a world where charm is always tempered by eerieness, and picaresque comedy is always darkened by the disturbing shadow of Faerie.


Praise for The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

"The writing is captivating, the characters charming, and the notion that perhaps there's more to reality than what our senses tell us is, as Clarke might say with a smile, simply enchanting."—Nancy Pearl, National Public Radio
"Eight short stories previously published between 1996 and 2004 . . . mostly offered again as careful restorations of late 18th- and early 19th-century compositions . . . They're familiar fairy tales or dovetailed traditional yarns touched up for the purposes of elegant retelling. There is a take on Rumpelstiltskin in 'On Lickerish Hill' and a reprise of the time dilations of fairyland in 'Mrs Mabb.' Needlework pictures come to life in another . . . tale called 'The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse.' Two more stories venture further back in the historical timeline, with Tudor and vaguely medieval settings . . . The prose . . . is consistently flawless and beautiful. Reading Clarke is like inspecting some wonderful antiquated craft, such as marquetry or fine hand embroidery."—Graham Joyce, The Washington Post Book World
"The eight stories in Ladies of Grace resemble Jonathan Strange in that fantastical creations change history, the 19th century takes on a modern spin, and charm and sophistication ooze off the pages. Here, Susanna Clarke casts a close eye on women, from fairies to damsels in distress—who, not surprisingly, tend to save themselves."—Bookmarks Magazine
"Revisiting characters and landscapes she created in her best-selling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Clarke has crafted eight quirky and devious stories to delight her fans. In the title story, Mr. Strange himself reappears and tangles with three country witches . . . In 'The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse,' the redoubtable hero follows his horse into Wall, a village created by Neil Gaiman, and encounters a woman whose embroidery tells the future. The story set farthest back in time has Mary, Queen of Scots, trying to kill Queen Elizabeth with a skirt. And in the final story, the Raven King himself is outwitted by his lowliest subject. All but one of the stories takes place in or around 1811, and Clarke uses the language, diction, and historical settings beautifully, just hinting at Jane Austen. Each character is elegantly drawn and comes to life on the page. These stories are charming, engaging, and deceptively simple."—Elizabeth Dickie, Booklist
“Materials from British folklore are reworked with beguiling narrative energy and mischievous wit in this first collection from the English author of the wonderful adult fantasy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Two of that book's major characters make vivid reappearances here. In ‘John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner,’ the legendary magician the Raven King (aka Uskglass) tramples on a humble woodsman's property while hunting, and is himself humbled when his victim enlists various saints to redress his grievance. In the amusing title story, gentleman sorcerer Jonathan Strange discovers during a country visit that ‘the magic of wild creatures [notably owls] and the magic of women’ are indeed a match for his own. Elsewhere, Mary Queen of Scots, while imprisoned by her rival, England's Elizabeth I, plots revenge through the medium of pictorial embroidery: Still, Elizabeth survives, and Mary loses her head (in ‘Antickes and Frets’). That tactic achieves better results when a British military hero strays into a remote domicile ruled by similar domestic magic (in ‘The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse’). Odd things will happen, evidently, when mortals join forces or contend with fairy folk. ‘Tom Brightwind and How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby’ describes how Tom, a vainglorious and dictatorial otherworldly paterfamilias, is gently persuaded by his best human friend to improve the fortunes of the inhabitants of Thoresby, a village hitherto cut off from the world beyond it. Less benign supernatural intervention operates in tales relating an unhappy young wife's risky escape from her boring old husband (‘On Lickerish Hill’); a forsaken fiancee's perilous dealings with the fairy temptress (‘Mrs. Mabb’) who has stolen her beloved; and, in ‘Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower,’ a country cleric's refusal to be intimidated by a ‘powerful fairy’ landowner's disagreeable habit of seducing and exploiting innocent young women. Irresistible storytelling, from a splendidly gifted enchantress.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The stories (seven previously published and one original tale, ‘John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner’) deal with fairies and the history of English magic, and are told in the same Victorian style that made Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell so distinct. Prebble (who also narrated Jonathan Strange) returns and once again triumphantly brings Clarke's richly imagined world to life. Sharing narrative duties this time around is Porter, who is equally skilled at playing prim and high-born ladies as she is using more folksy tones in ‘On Lickerish Hill’ . . . A lyrical and thoroughly enjoyable collection from a burgeoning master of fantasy literature.”—Publishers Weekly

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Susanna Clarke is the author of the New York Times bestseller and multiple award winner Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. She lives in Cambridge, England.
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  • Susanna Clarke

  • Susanna Clarke is the author of the New York Times bestseller and multiple award winner Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. She lives in Cambridge, England.