In recent years I have discovered the wonder of the short story through the genius of writers such as Chekhov, Lovecraft and Poe. In turn I have also discovered the satisfaction that arises from writing a short story that works as fiction. To complement this I have also in the past year discovered the wonder of one of the great fantasy works I have ever read in [b:Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell|14201|Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell|Susanna Clarke|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1357027589s/14201.jpg|3921305].* In The Ladies of Grace Adieu
Susanna Clarke combines both of these two separate entities which I have discovered a love for with great power. As such she is quickly becoming one of my favourite female authors and would have to feature on a top ten list of all favourite authors.
The stories in The Ladies of Grace Adieu
are perhaps not so polished and smooth as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
yet as short stories each one is a single gem within a fine collection. Susanna Clarke delivers again with wit, storytelling and sly asides to the reader. If Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
is one of the most controlled and beautifully written debuts (and novels) I have read then these are perhaps the finest debut short stories I have read to date.
Each of the short stories contains a touch of the fae and as such is required reading for anyone who loves fairytales and fairies in general. Not all of the stories are set in the alternate history world devised in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
yet each story feels as if it should belong in that world (even the story set within the world of Neil Gaiman's [b:Stardust|16793|Stardust|Neil Gaiman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328433738s/16793.jpg|3166179] feels right at home in the mixed world of magic and Victorian England that Clarke created). My personal favourites were, however, the three stories which clearly were written as part of Jonathan Strange's world: The Ladies of Grace Adieu
, Tom Brightwind
and John Uskglask and the Cumbrian Charcoal
I would fully recommend this collection as both a starting point for a reader wanting to read the afore mentioned Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
or as a companion book. Anyone who enjoyed Susanna Clarke's debut novel should make sure they read this relatively short collection in any case. Particularly while they await news of the upcoming sequel to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
or are planning out their next re-read. A highly recommended collection of charming fairy short stories.
*This will have to suffice as a footnote for now. I simply intend to point out that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
is also one of the greatest modern fiction works I've read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes character, beautiful prose, magic and spellbinding artistry in a work of fiction.