Short Bites: The Ladies of Grace Adieu

Set in the same world as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu brings us back to 19th century England, a time in which gender roles dictated that women must stick only to domestic affairs (while men deal with public affairs). Here we find the ladies of Grace Adieu:

  • Mrs. Field: the second (and young) wife of an old man
  • Cassandra: the niece of that old man; she is only a year younger than Mrs. Field
  • Miss Tobias: a governess to two young heiresses to a large family fortune

The ladies have a sisterly bond. During their spare time, they call upon (visit) each other and talk about different things, ranging from Cassandra’s potential future man to recently published magical studies articles.

OK, magic: well, in this world, women only deal with domestic affairs, so magic, which is considered a public affair, is out of the question for them. Therefore, only men can be magicians. Right, well, clearly we all disagree. The ladies of Grace Adieu are fighters: if there’s something they set their hearts and minds to do, who or what’s to stop them? To quote Cassandra:

If ever a time comes, when your heart and your head declare a truce, then I suggest you come back to Grace Adieu and then you may tell us what magic may or may not do.

Susanna Clarke, “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” in The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

Whereas Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell have written article upon article and have worked to formalize magic and to document how magic should be, the ladies of Grace Adieu challenge that worldview: gender roles are ridiculous, and The Raven King lives on.

I’m excited to read the rest of The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.

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