Thursday, May 8, 2008

*Too Wyrd

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories
by Susanna Clarke

I just do not get it. I love the Harry Potter books, and I can think of other books that verge on fantasy that I have enjoyed (most notably The Sparrow and Children of God, both by Mary Doria Russell). But if a book gets too out there, too fantastic, too much "did that really happen or is this a hallucination?", too much difference between the world the author creates and the one we live in, it is difficult for me to get into it.

E. really liked Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, so he got me this collection of short stories for my birthday a few months ago. Part of the problem may be the short story genre. This is a collection of eight pretty much unrelated stories, except they all deal with the faerie world in England. The time periods and characters jump around. If it were a novel and the reader could become immersed in one set of characters and one realm of fantasy, it might work better. As it is, I finish each one going "HUH?" Maybe I'm just a little dense. Having said that, I will admit to my own preference for novels over short stories, so my bias could be affecting how I experience the book.

At some point, I may give Clarke's novel a try - the longer stories of this collection prove more satisfying. I also would sometime like to do some reading about the folklore and culture of the faeries. I felt like I was missing something in this book, because I do not know the powers or pecking order of the faeries. In many cases, they sounded like witches or magicians, and I'm not sure what all the differences are. Oh well, we can't know everything. Gotta prioritize.

Reverent Reader

*I remember from reading Macbeth a thousand years ago that "wyrd" is how "weird" is spelled in Old English. Given that one story in this collection is written in Old English, and several of them throw in the odd phrase or two, it seemed appropriate to title this post in Old English.


At 5/10/08, 5:55 PM , Blogger Lisa said...

I had the same experience with one of Louise Erdrich's books. I really liked the first one (Love Medicine??), and then one of her other novels the line between reality and fantasy was too blurry, and I just couldn't hang with it. I have her book, painted drum, but I haven't started it yet.

At 5/11/08, 12:23 PM , Blogger Amy Louise said...

I absolutely LOVED Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It is one of my top 10 favorite books. Please give it a try.

At 5/11/08, 12:24 PM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

Hey Lisa - I have heard that same thing about Louise Erdrich, and therefore have not read any of her stuff - it just sounds too bizarre to follow. However, her most recent one, Plague of Doves, just came out to very positive reviews. It is about some Ojibwe Indians being falsely accused of a heinous crime, and the backlash against the whole Ojibwe community - I think it is set in one of the Dakotas. I thought I might give it a shot.

At 5/11/08, 12:25 PM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

OK, Amy Louise - since it's you, and I think we have similar taste and instincts, at some point I will try it. I think this is the first time you have posted on the blog. WELCOME!

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