“The Ladies of Grace Adieu” by Susanna Clarke and Charles Vess

I adore this book. In the edition that was sent around my neck of the woods, a beautiful cover and gorgeously thick, friendly pages decorated with Charles Vess’ illustrations enhance the experience of reading Clarke’s wonderful stories.

I loved Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I waited until the end of my Ion exam in my second year and hotfooted it over to the Co-op with my friends. We all picked up dichotomous white and black covered books, beautiful in their simplicity, and spent the next two weeks taking out time to savour her first novel.

I enjoyed The Ladies of Grace Adieu much more than I did JS&MN. Perhaps it was the shorter format, or that the footnotes and masculinity laden atmosphere of that first title were exchanged for stories with far less digression. Perhaps it was because I read this collection over a long, lazy break, whereas I had to rush to finish JS&MN in time to start another stint of studying.

Clarke’s writing is delicious and restful. Her characters are recognisable, identifiable, and comfortable to me in a way that many fantasy characters are not. Perhaps it is simply the British nature of it all; I loathe American Protagonists, and can’t help but wince when I encounter them in my books.

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