Antickes and Frets is one of eight stories taken from the collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories written by Susanna Clarke. Most of which where written prior to her multiple award winning novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. This 14 page short story is a slightly magic-imbued telling of the capture and imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It shows a side of this highly flawed and complex historic character. She has an edgy and evil side within the tale.
Highly recommended for anyone, even those whom are not fond of fantasy, but especially those who enjoy old English history. Here is a quote which John (my husband and a Brit himself) selected from reading the story at my insistence – he is not a big fantasy fan but we may convert him yet. It demonstrates the author’s incredible grasp on language and the quality of the character herself. Here Mary is contemplating the demise of her husbands:
The Queen of Scots’ husbands had never consulted her convenience in their dying. Her first, the King of France, had died at the age of sixteen and so she had lost the throne – a circumstance which had caused her great pain. Her second husband (whom she hated and wished dead) had fallen ill in the most tantalizing way, but had utterly failed to die – until some kind person had first blown him up and then strangled him.
From reading this quote it is easy to see why she has won numerous awards for her work.
This particular hard cover first edition I am reading is gorgeous, especially so because it is illustrated by Charles Vess. He decorates the pages between the stories with lovely black and white thin lined drawings on old fashioned scalloped pages. It has an embossed cover with no cover jacket - see to the right. I have only just learned about Vess via Carl V via The Once Upon a Time IV Challenge – badge above links to the site.
Excitingly, Vess will be at a local function here in the Phoenix area, LepreCon 36, next weekend and we are hoping to attend. (If any one is attending let us know!) I only wish I owned this first edition copy. It is borrowed from the local library, but if it where mine I could have him autograph it.
A bit more around the book and examining the introduction to this collection, which is purportedly written by a Professor James Sutherland – Director of Sidhe Studies (fairy), University of Aberdeen. I was amazed that such a program would even exist, and from researching it I believe it is one of the tales. Being the sucker such as I am, I almost fell for it and was quite disappointed since I dreamed of attending the post graduate program there. Link here to read this interesting introduction.
At the linked above site you can also read one of two very short stories from the collection The Duke of Wellington Misplaces his Horse, as well as John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner. The last is what I plan to read and review next, which has some interesting history and connections.
Please note the Amazon links to the copies above are of the least expensive paperback and differ from the covers pictured here. Have a wonderful Sunday!