The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories introduces readers to a world where charm is always tempered by eeriness, and picaresque comedy is always darkened by the disturbing shadow of magic.
©2006 Susanna Clarke (P)2006 Audio Renaissance, a divison of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
"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....These stories are charming, engaging, and deceptively simple." (Booklist)
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"21st century 19th century lit"
If you haven't read or heard, as the case may be, "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell", go do that now. After you are finished, pick up "The Ladies of Grace Adieu". The incomparable Susanna Clarke further establishes a 19th century Britain where the practice of magic is a reality and the study of faeries a laudable diversion for any gentleman or lady. This is a collection of several previously published works and well worth the listen.
Clarke's writing is much illuminated by footnotes and this particular audible rendition, through the use of two narrators, easily handles the format.
The narrators are engaging throughout and both have a certain droll delivery that well captures the subtle humor found throughout Ms. Clarke's work.
"Another beautiful read."
I thought I would be bothered by the inclusion of Davina Porter in this reading, because Simon Prebble was amazing in his reading of Clarke's "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell," but I was wrong. So, with two talented readers, this audio book was fantastic.
"better by ear"
Although not all of these stories are Clarke at her best, they have an oral feel that makes the audio book an excellent way to experience them. JSMN fans will especially appreciate the title story, which provides a female response to the divided magician's public sphere in JSMN and a refreshing reworking of the classic female gothic narrative. My favorite is probably the complex story about the English minister, whose adaptation to fairy ways reminds me of the creepy conclusion to Gulliver's visit with the Hwynmnmns (sp?). I've noticed that Clarke is especially appreciated by English lit fans and scholars.
These are wonderful stories, maybe even better than her long novel "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" which I read first and enjoyed very much. Smart, entertaining, witty, I recommend this very highly.
"Slowly draws you into her world"
Having not read Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell (though it's been on my shelf for ages) I was a bit bemused by the first story and almost gave up. I loved the language and atmosphere, but found the characters hard to engage with and wasn't always entirely sure exactly what was going on.
However the next story, an evocative, whimsical and cheeky retelling of the English folk tale Tom Tit Tot, totally sucked me in and from then on I was completely hooked. The two readers worked well for me, they each brought something different to the stories, though in some ways it would have made things clearer if they'd alternated story by story as sometimes the transition from one story to another was unclear. Also it would be nice if the chapters were each individual stories, so you could easily navigate back to the beginning of a story (if, like me, you sometimes vague out and then suddenly realise you are not sure what's going on).
I listened to these in the last weeks of my pregnancy as I walked the hills and bushlands of my area and it totally transformed the surrounding environment into Clarke's fairytale world. I think this will be the first audio book experience I will treasure as an experience with its own peculiarly intimate geography - something I usually identify with the physical terrain of the book.
Recommended for people with an interest in fairy and folktales, fans of Neil Gaiman, Angela Carter, Margaret Mahy. If you like this I highly recommend Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels, which uses Snow White and Rose Red as a storytelling frame. Be warned though, Lanagan's world is far less benign than Clarke's fairy landscape of tricksters and sprites and does contain confronting themes.
If you are a Jane Austen fan you will really enjoy this book. The talk from that era is the same. Nothing grizzly here, just enjoyment. More of a woman's read I think. A quiet, leisurely listen.
"Short take on short mysteries"
I found these short tales light, pleasant and entertaining for a 1.5-2 hour drive. I would not call them gripping, but they held my attention well enough for me to think "no, don't go down that lane' or 'gees...don't look!' After a couple of hours, I found myself needing a little break to ponder the story and the times in which which it occurred. Would I recommend it to my Audible pals....as a nice diversion for one who likes to sample the menu and try something different, yes.
"Disappointed Jonathan Strange fan"
I jumped on this one as soon as I finished the delicious Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, but was sadly disappointed. It was difficult to adjust to the female narrator, and even Simon Prebble's voice had a different tone, but it seemed more like it was in the quality of the recording. I only took to two or three of the stories, the rest were not easy to follow, especially the one about Mary Queen of Scots. I don't even remember if that's the right title. The last story was charming, laugh out loud funny, and I wish more of them had that familiar whimsical, magical feel. But they don't. If you are yearning for more after reading Jonathan Strange, I'm sure you will want to follow it up with this one, but it was not the enjoyable transition that I'd hoped for.
As we near the BBC USA airing of JS&MN, this book helped pass the time by offering more stories of a magical England and a chance for women to show their mad magical skillz (the author had to leave much of the activities of magical women out of the preceding novel in order to keep with the tone of the times).
We also finally get the oft-referred to tale of John Uskglass & the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner, as written by Lord Portishead - made me wish for a full rendering of A Child's History of the Raven King :)
Simon Prebble's excellent voice is joined by Davina Porter's: she matches him perfectly in giving a better feel for the tales that are best read by a woman.
I highly reccomend this for any and all who want to revisit the world of JS&MN again.
"Hard To Follow Jonathan Strange"
I really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell so I was a bit ambivalent about reading this one given that it was likely to suffer from the "difficult second album" syndrome. It turns out to be a series of shorter stories set in the same "world" as the first novel. These vary in quality but they still contain a lot of the qualities that made Jonathan Strange such an enjoyable. However in the end I did feel a bit short-changed. The narration was excellent - Simon Prebble is one my favourites and I would seek out books narrated by Davina Porter based on this.
"Not quite as good as JS&MN- but still good"
I downloaded this book after listening to 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell'. JS&MN is a long story with single plot running through the book, with little subplots and stories of faerie woven in. 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' is a collection of shorter stories, all which have the same charm as those in the former book. Whilst this collection does not lead to as fulfilling an experience, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
"Lacked something but still enjoyable"
I absolutely loved Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel so decided to give the Ladies of Grace Adieu a whirl. I did enjoy the book and the stories were compact, cleverly written and entertaining. However I think it is fair to say that I was spoilt by JS&MN so this book felt lacking in someway. I probably should have done them the other way around.
The audio quality was clean and crisp, Simon Prebble is a joy to listen to and the reading pace was great. I can't fault the book in any way,, other than I was probably wanting more of JS and didn't get it. A good book on the whole and well worth a listen. I give it four out of five.
"Great stories - shame about the chapter spacings"
Very enjoyable tales. Annoyingly the chapter spacings are regularly spaced throughout the audio book rather than at the start/finish of the stories. Very well read with a variety of narrators.
"Very mixed bag."
The collection is very mixed in its quality. In general, the shorter stories work quite well but the longest, about Mr Simonelli and John Hollyshoes, is incredibly tedious. Had the 'chapters' in the book coincided with the reading then I would have skipped past it almost entirely. This is not the fault of the narrators, who are excellent, but of the author.
This is not a book I can see me ever bothering with again. I would say that, even if you enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, this is not a book worth buying.
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