Sunday, May 9, 2010

Short Story Weekends - Review: Antickes and Frets by Susanna Clarke


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.15161

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.

                          USpbkjacket_w150                     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.

  • Amazon purchasing links for The Ladies of Grace Adieu - US/UK/Canada.
  • Amazon purchasing links for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - US/UK/Canada.

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!


Aarti said...

I really liked Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, though I haven't read this short story collection yet. I really hope she writes a sequel to JS&MN. I LOVE Arabella, and hope she has some sort of role!

Unknown said...

Aarti -
Well then I am pretty sure I'm going to love it then and a sequel - that's wonderful.

What is really interesting about it is that apparently one of the shorts included was the impetus for writing the book itself. I do believe it is the book's title story. Gosh I hope I got that right. :)

Charlie said...

"... until some kind person had first blown him up and then strangled him."

That was a kind person, wasn't it.

Although Mary lived in the 16th century, the quote sounds more Victorian to me.

And I love short stories.

Unknown said...

Charlie -
Mary was not a good person.... not the worst but not good.

I thought it was kinda funny that my husband actually picked this

I am really enjoying these few shorts right now - less of a commitment. And this collection is wonderful.

Charlie said...

That's what I like about short stories: less of a commitment than say, Whitopia, before going to sleep at night.

I have the complete short stories of Ray Bradbury on the bedside table right now, and one or two is quite satisfying.

Unknown said...

Charlie -
I have to read some more of Bradbury soon. I enjoyed Something Wicked and have to try some of his others as well.... my ex loved Dandelion Wine and I have yet to read it so...

I understand he has a new collection out? or is a reprint? or am I dreaming?

Yes Whitopia was definitely chewy and only digestible in small bits.


logankstewart said...

I go away and you change up your header just like that? That's awesome. I love it. Looks great.

I found a hardcover copy of this book on my vacation for $2.99 and bought it immediately.

I hope you enjoy the John Uskglass story as much as I did. The whole book is fantastic.

Unknown said...

Logan -
I have been meaning to make a change and found this amazing picture and went for it. Too bad you can't see the whole thing as I had to cut it down to fit. It is gorgeous...

Thanks :)

I've read Uskglass and I did enjoy it but not as much as this one.

My question is it a first edition? lol. 2.99 is incredible either way.

Will be by your blog very soon, to see your trip pics.

Celestial Elf said...

Loved The Raven King Completely!
made some machinima films with Susanna Clarkes permission to celebrate the characeter,
heres one for you to enjoy,

The Raven King & Captain Fox...

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