He loves fairytales as much as I do.
If you were one of the fortunates to tune in to SBS last night at 8:30 pm, your mind would’ve been blown – as mine was – by the Pumpkin Carriage amuse bouche, the Golden Egg entree, the Boar’s Head main encased in a book of Snow White; or the ‘piece de resistance’, an entire Hansel and Gretel edible house to round off dessert. If your house was on fire or the kids refused to be sent to bed, you may not have seen it – so lucky for you Heston’s latest book: Heston’s Fantastical Feasts contains all the stuff I, the rest of the foodie nation and the guests themselves were drooling over.
One of my latest reads has been Susanna Clarke’s followup to the brilliant Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell , titled The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Aside from the fact that I was instantly drawn to the cover itself, the filling inside is just as tempting.
Imagine a place very much like Victorian England, with the same social mores and stuffy costumery, but with fairies. Perhaps it existed sometime in history for you (do you believe in fairies?) or it is entirely fiction, but nonetheless Susanna Clarke does a super job of making fairies seem integrated into the Victorian environment, if not society (the fairies tend more to dilly-dally around the edges).
The fairies themselves, interestingly enough, aren’t happy little joys the size of your forefinger who go spreading fairy dust everywhere – they’re more likely to be six-feet-tall, and followed around by imps and goblins. They have all the passions, jealousies and hatreds of the human being magnified tenfold – if you cross them prepare to suffer strange and unusual consequences: perhaps they have a mind to turn you into a tree, or fill your ears with a shrilly ringing so you’ll never think straight again. It’s a thoroughly proper collection of short stories full of wit and whims and fairy trouble, and you can read my full review here, if you’d like.
The Ladies of Grace Adieu really is a gorgeous book to curl up with on a rainy day when the world outside seems like a strange, electric place. And the devotion to 19th century language throughout the book makes it perfect for a recommendation at your next High Tea gathering. Just be sure that none of the other ladies and gents begin to cough into their handkerchiefs or eye you strangely, or you may find you’ve just made yourself a willing target for an undercover fairy who fears being found out.