When British writer Susanna Clarke’s debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, about two magicians in 19th century England, was published in 2004, it was easily dubbed an “instant classic”. With its vividly imagined alternative history of the time, the book earned Clarke a spot on the Man Booker Prize longlist and marked her as a fantasy writer to watch out for. Two years later she delivered with a short story collection that retained the unique literary voice of her novel while expanding the scope of characters and storytelling.
The Ladies of Grace Adieu And Other Stories, a collection of eight short stories, take us once again to old-time England, one replete with magic-practising governesses, capricious, vindictive fairies (who are nothing like the cutesy creatures Enid Blyton would have you believe they are) and women who have the power to embroider terrible fates. Deliciously imagined, the stories draw upon a blend of real history and alternative folklore and range from wickedly hilarious to eerily discomfiting. And for fans of Clarke’s debut novel, there are appearances by the Raven King and Mr Norrell himself, unseated from his high horse of superiority by a trio of female magicians. But the cherry on the top has to be the increasingly infuriated Mary Queen of Scots, whose attempts to reclaim her throne (or any throne) through magic unfortunately come to nought.
Published in 2006.