Friday, July 18, 2008

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 235
Reason for Reading : TBR Challenge 08, Short Story Reading Challenge, to read more from the world of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

A collection of eight short stories by Susanna Clarke with illustrations by Charles Vess. I had read two of them before in some of the Adult Fairy Tale Anthologies collected by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. The easiest thing is to go through the stories briefly one by one.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Three ladies, Mrs Fields, Miss Tobais and Miss Cassandra Parbringer forma close friendship and begin using magic. Jonathan Strange is the brother-in-law to Mr Woodhope who hopes to marry Miss Parbringer until Mr Strange discovers her use of magic and arranges for him to be relocated. At one point in the story two of the ladies turn themselves into owls to eat two men who they have turned into mice. A fun story looking at female magicians in the male orientated society of Strange and Norrell.

On Lickerish Hill - Set in East Anglia in the 17th centuary when the distinctions between superstition and science were blurred. Elements of Rumplestiltskin are seen in this tale told by Miranda Sownestron. One of the tales I had read previously.

Mrs Mabb - Venetia is set to marry Captain Fox, but on her return from Manchester she finds him gone to live with the mysterious Mrs Mabb. Venetia goes to her house in a number of different ways to see that he is ok and well. Each time she loses consciousness and wakes up back in her bed with no memory of events and various unexplained injuries. Eventually she bests Mrs Mabb and wins back her love. Echos of Tam Lin with her fighting a fairy woman for her love.

The Duke of Wellington misplaces his horse - Set in the world of Stardust written by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. The Duke of Wellington visits the villiage of Wall and annoys the folk living there so they lure his horse across the border. He follows and finds a beautiful woman sewing scenes from his life as far forward as his death. He is able to change his future by unpicking the stitches and sewing himself a new destiny.

Mr Simonelli or the Fairy Widower - A rendering of "Midwife to the Fairies" found in English, Irish, Scots and Breton variations. Also includes other fairy tale themes of a girl who was stolen away to suckle a fairy baby, the seeing eye, the fairy house in the woods etc. An interesting tale of fairy and magic told in journal and letter form. This was the other tale I had read previously.

Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge was built in Thoresby - A fun tale looking at the friendship between human David Montefore and fairy Tom Brightwind. Also discussed is the relationship between fairy parents and grandparents and their children. The issue of Tom and a human woman having a child together is disguised by him helping the town by building a bridge in Thoresby by fairy magic.

Antickes and Frets - Mary Queen of Scots has been imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth who she is trying to kill and gain her throne. She is trying to use enchanted embriodary to reach her goals. To explain this I noted down a quote: "In the light of the moon and bare winter branches appeared to her now like great, black stitches sewn across the window-like stitches sewn across the castle, across the Queen [Mary] herself. In her terror she thought her eyes were stitched up, her throat closed with black stitches; her fingers were sewn together so that her hands were become useless, ugly flaps."

John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal burner - Bears similarities to other stories where a great ruler is outwitted by one of his humblest subjects. After changing the Charcoal Burners pig into a slamon, the charcoal burner exacts revenge on John Uskglass without knowing who he is by speaking to various saints. John returnes eating his melted cheese and ruining his wood before a saint looses John's tongue forcing him to reveal many secrets that should have remained hidden. Everything is returned to normal by John in apologies to the charcoal burner, he also gives him a second pig and leaves most confused!

I really enjoyed this collection, especially Antickes and Frets and The Ladies of Grace Adieu which were the most interesting stories. Quite a short collection with longer stories than I have read in previous anthologies. It was great to revisit the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and I hope there will be more installments in the future. I also look forward toseeing what she will write next.


soleil said...

my friend asia gave me this book a while back but i still haven't gotten to it yet. thanks for the inspiring review. now i want to pull it out and read it now. :)

Stephanie said...

I think I really need to read this one. I've read a couple really good reviews on it! I never did get to Jonathan Strange. Need to add that one to the list too!

Susan said...

I just bought this book! On my TBR pile right away....and I just did the book meme you tagged me for! Thanks so much, I had a lot of fun doing it! I liked your answers too :-) Mine was posted tonight:
Good review of this book. I have to read Jonathan Strange first, which is for next month. I'll let you know when I post.

Alice said...

I've seen this book in the bookstores for some time but didn't get it. Maybe I would.

By the way, I have an award for you! :D

Ana S. said...

I look forward to seeing what she'll write next too!

Kim L said...

This one sounds interesting. For whatever reason, fairy tale retellings always draw me in. Something about a familiar story in a new setting.

Monster Paperbag said...

I loved Clarke's first novel. I gotta get this book, too.

Carl V. Anderson said...

This has been one of the most pleasantly satisfying books that I have read this year. I enjoyed it so much that I went and re-read several stories out of it to my wife and she enjoyed them as well. I look forward to more short fiction from her in the future.