Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell A Novel Author:Susanna Clarke The national bestseller is now available on audio! — English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy serva... more »nts are nothing but a fading memory.
But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.
All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.
Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more.
Elegant, witty, and flawlessly detailed, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the breakout smash of the fall--a magisterial first novel that draws readers into Susanna Clarke's fantastic and utterly convincing vision of a past world.« less
There are people here who really loved this book and people who loathe it. I really liked it.
Initially it took some getting used to, like the way your ear adjusts to opera or another language, Clarke's rich narrative was very soothing for me and I loved escaping in it into her story. It started a little slowly, but the promise of "Jane Austen meets Harry Potter" was too much for me to resist. I found it more "Jane Austen attempts to one-up Tolkien with mixed results" but as I said, I am firmly in the "loved it" camp.
One of the themes I especially liked was Mr. Norrell's hoarding of magic books, particularly in times where corporate censorship can stifle political thought and many countries still do not enjoy freedom of speech or the press.
My favorite thing about this book was what a dreamy hero Jonathan Strange is. Though three dimensional, and with a few weaknesses, Clarke writes him deliciously and I couldn't have been happier with him as a protagonist.
Arabella, Lady Pole, Stephen Black, The gentleman with thistle down hair, Childremass, even Viniculus and Segundus are all vibrant supporting characters that make the story engaging and real.
Some of the best parts of the book only related tangentially to the plot, which is quite well developed. You will find emotional and suspenseful moments when you least suspect them.
I leave you with this quotation from the book:
"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might," he admitted, "but a gentleman never could."
This early-19th-century alternate history follows the characters of the title - Mr. Norrell, a magician who is obsessed with the idea of returning England to its prior state of magical glory - but who guards his secrets jealously - and Jonathan Strange, a gentlemanly dilettante who unexpectedly finds his calling in magic as well.
Written in an intentionally pseudo-Victorian style, this long book (almost 800 pages) is not the sort of tale that one falls into and forgets the world until it is over. Frequently annotated by footnotes, the meandering story *feels* long (it took me 6 days to read! Unheard of!) - but it is also a literary pleasure to read, full of quirky "facts" and fables.
The positive reviews of this book are not wrong - this is a good book, and a remarkable first novel. but I am utterly mystified as to why anyone would compare it to Tolkien (as many press reviews have) or with Harry Potter.
Readers of this book will fall into one of two categories: those who love it and can't put it down vs those who find it too tedious and slow to finish.
I fall into the category of those who loved this book. I found it steady and compelling, even though the plot was subtle and the action subdued. For me, this book possessed that unidentifiable hook that drew me in at the very beginning and kept me interested to the very end.
This book provides a unique blend of magic, mystery, mythology, and Victorian-style writing. The characters are as complex as the situations that surround them. Claims that this book is slow, tedious, and boring are not unfounded. There is certainly a contingency of readers who will absolutely hate this book. There will also be just as many who name it among their favorites.
If you start reading this book and are not intrigued by the first 100 pages or so, then you would probably do best by moving onto something else. The pacing and tone of the book remain fairly consistent throughout its 800+ pages. If the first 100 bore you, move on. If they intrigue you, then be glad to know that there are 700 more to come.
This is my favorite book of all time. Fantasy, history, and humor all collide into this very clever and unique novel. It's a bit lengthy, but worth it. As everyone says, it's "Harry Potter for adults."