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Topic: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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ElizabethG avatar
Subject: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Date Posted: 11/8/2007 3:11 PM ET
Member Since: 9/11/2007
Posts: 399
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I know from searching the PBS discussion forums that 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. Although in a perfect world, the internet would have brought as much information and education to all people as it has to me, it is simply not so. I think it is still something worth considering, especially 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. In my imagination he's up there with my two other "ideal man" fictional characters; Nick Carraway and Captain Marlowe. He's not perfect, but he's not some ironic anti-hero either, an amusing convention I am getting a bit tired of. Clarke writes his madness deliciously and I couldn't have been happier with it.

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. I could go on about them, but I'd love to know which characters were the favorites of other readers.

I was  that some of the best parts of the book only related tangentially to the plot. I found myself crying not only at the very last scene of the book, but also when Stephen had to put his horse down.

I am absolutely delighted with this passage:

"May I ask you something?" Dr Greysteel nodded."Are you not afraid that it will go out?"

"What will go out?" asked Dr Greysteel.

"The candle," Strange gestured to Dr Greysteel's forehead. "The candle inside your head."

Although my favorite quotation is:

"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."

Alright, have at it. What did you think about this book?

Last Edited on: 11/8/07 5:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
vix avatar
Date Posted: 11/8/2007 4:38 PM ET
Member Since: 6/10/2007
Posts: 242
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I have this on my TBR mountain at home, and one day WILL get around to reading it.  So far I've only heard negative comments from my friends who have read it, so I'm glad to hear from the other side of the table!  :-)

endoux avatar
Date Posted: 11/9/2007 4:57 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 6,143
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I couldn't get into it, so I gave up maybe 50 pages in, if that.

Generic Profile avatar
Date Posted: 11/9/2007 8:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2007
Posts: 13
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Well, I for one loved it. It's definitely got a very different feel from most books, but I though it was fabulous. It does start slowly, and there were several places in the begining where I thought I'd pegged what the big conflict was going to be, but it's too long for that one to be revealed early. Loved loved loved the gentleman with thistledown hair, and I hope the sequel has lots more about the Raven King in it.
tommyklochny avatar
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Date Posted: 11/11/2007 2:56 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 1,385
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Elizabeth--I love the way you say that you had to let your ear adjust to the language like listening to an opera. I felt that way too. I had seen the book for months at Barnes and Noble, but I kept resisting. I finally gave in, and I was hooked from the start. What I liked was the way she treated it like a non-fiction book with all the supporting references. Favorite character had to be Jonathan Strange by far and the gentleman with the thistledown hair. I felt really sorry for Mr. Norrell; he was such a sad character. I also read the short story "the Ladies of Grace Adieu" which featured Strange. I thought she did an excellent job of creating an alternative reality that I totally bought into. I kind of felt like it was the Harry Potter book for adults. This book has become one of my all time favorites.
Generic Profile avatar
Date Posted: 11/27/2007 11:01 PM ET
Member Since: 2/28/2006
Posts: 64
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I just finished this book and I was pleasantly surprised.  The author did an incredible job of world building--hard to believe it was her first novel!  I too loved the supporting footnotes.  I really disliked the gentleman with the thistledown hair.  I liked Childermass the most, and the nameless slave.  I loved the way things came out in the end.  Mainly the story carried me along very well and I was entertained for the whole thousand pages.  I too would like to read more about the Raven King!

sevenspiders avatar
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Date Posted: 12/11/2007 7:22 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,944
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I loved it.   To me, it was what I'd expect if Dickens wrote a fantasy, with all the interweaving plots and rich characters.  It took a while to get through, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

bookmuncher avatar
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Date Posted: 12/16/2007 7:27 PM ET
Member Since: 2/20/2007
Posts: 12,641
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I actually was somewhere in between: I thought it was sort of OK, but I decided not to read her future books. I generally really LIKE books set in that period, too, and the combination of history plus some fantasty elements; but this was Just. So. Slow. And I think too whimsical for my taste. I also had a bit of a bad reaction to the enormous prepublication hype (an article in the NY TImes Magazine, for g*d's sake!) - it made me expect a lot and my expectations were definitely not fulfilled. Interesting how varied a response it got - I can't help wondering why.

Last Edited on: 12/16/07 7:27 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
AJWyrm avatar
Date Posted: 2/27/2008 12:54 PM ET
Member Since: 1/2/2008
Posts: 17
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I just finished this book recently, and I loved it.  This book has renewed my interest in fantasy as a genre, because I was pretty much about to give up on it.  I  love Jane Austen and this book definitely had that Jane Austen flavor which kept me reading.

bluephrog avatar
Subject: we both loved this one!
Date Posted: 3/22/2008 10:40 AM ET
Member Since: 3/22/2008
Posts: 352
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This one did take a bit to get going but I thought it was super. Hubby though it was good but nothing spectacular. Give it a second try some day and you might be pleasantly surprised.

FantasyKat avatar
Date Posted: 4/16/2008 9:47 AM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2007
Posts: 40
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I think her writing is absolutely brilliant. Reading Jonathan Strange was like reading a 19th century English novel (which I love) and fantasy at the same time. What could be better than that??? And the subtle dry humor was great -- I laughed out loud many times.  We've got some extensive reviews here:  http://www.fantasyliterature.net/clarkesusanna.html   and we also have a review for her other book, a colleciton of stories called  "The Lady of Grade Adieu and other stories." There are some more stories about Jonathan Strange in that book.

Generic Profile avatar
Subject: I enjoyed it
Date Posted: 4/22/2008 10:46 PM ET
Member Since: 4/21/2008
Posts: 1
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Minor spoiler, of a sort. You are warned. Put me in the enjoyed it camp. It was written in an old flavor, which I did enjoy. Though I admit, I did get impatient with the pace at times. I liked Mr Norrell about the best. The man with Thistledown hair was extremely interesting, and then to discover that both Strange and Norrell were merely pawns in a single spell of the Raven Kings.... well, that was an extra bit of tasty flavor.
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Karen B. - ,
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Subject: Thank you!
Date Posted: 4/23/2008 8:57 AM ET
Member Since: 3/31/2007
Posts: 32
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Thank you for a wonderful review!  I've got this one on my TBR pile as well, and it is going to move to the top when I get home this evening!  I should be able to crack it open this weekend.

Generic Profile avatar
Date Posted: 4/24/2008 3:07 AM ET
Member Since: 12/7/2007
Posts: 215
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sorry. I heard a great deal about it & settled down & tried to get into it, but just could not. Perhaps it was the pace. I kept at it after reading a couple of books & still couldn't so i just put it  down & gave it away. I can easily read & enjoy Gene Wolfe but this was just. to. slow. or something. Didn't come together for me at all.

Generic Profile avatar
Date Posted: 5/12/2008 8:48 PM ET
Member Since: 9/2/2007
Posts: 543
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I haven't finished reading this book. Only read about 600 pages, but I like this book. It does take time to get into this book, but I think it's worth it. I love the writing, Clarke was able to capture the dialogue and mannerisms of regency England perfectly. I enjoyed the little footnotes going into more detail on certain subjects or issues. I'm the type of person that likes detail, the more the better.

My favorite character is probably Mr. Norrell. Yah, everyone seems to find him somewhat irritating and arrogant but his quirky, boring and very cautious personality grows on you the more you read about him.LOL. I loved how sarcastic Jonathan Strange was, made me laugh a few times at his remarks.

I also enjoyed the descriptions about the fairy world (other world?). Clarke gives it such a dreamy and wistful and haunting quality to this magical world that you wish it were real and that humans could enter it without them knowing. While it's not so flashy and in your face, it's all very realistically drawn and described.

I will be a bit sad when I finish the book and leave the world Clarke created, hopefully she has a sequel in the works so we can re-visit this fictional world.

ElizabethG avatar
Date Posted: 5/15/2008 11:19 AM ET
Member Since: 9/11/2007
Posts: 399
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I've heard there is a sequel in the works, and they are making a movie!

FantasyKat avatar
Date Posted: 5/16/2008 5:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2007
Posts: 40
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Karen B, how are you liking it??? Yes, it's slow, but it's meant to savor. So beautifully written!!

Generic Profile avatar
Date Posted: 5/16/2008 5:31 PM ET
Member Since: 9/2/2007
Posts: 543
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Yah, a sequel! Do you know what it will be about? When it'll be published?
HandD avatar
Date Posted: 6/5/2008 11:46 AM ET
Member Since: 2/15/2007
Posts: 496
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I ended up getting it on book on tape from the library and I am glad I was able to enjoy it in that manner. I think if I was reading it I may have gotten frustrated and not finished it. As it was I really enjoyed tuning into it while I was stuck in rush hour traffic. I enjoyed its depth and characterization, especially enjoyed the use of magic in the Napoleonic war. I felt very strong for poor Lady Polle (sp?) and even more so for Mrs. Strange.
jenni7202 avatar
Date Posted: 6/27/2008 5:56 PM ET
Member Since: 5/14/2008
Posts: 619
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I just got this book at my local UBS for 1.25.  It was on my reminder list, so I'm glad I was able to pick it up for such a cheap price, being as how it's a HUGE book, lol.  I haven't gotten a chance to read it though.  I don't know anyone around here personally that has read it, although, I only know 2 people that are avid readers, and I hardly ever get to see them, so I get made fun of a lot due to my book addiction :(.  I do hope I enjoy it though.

Generic Profile avatar
Date Posted: 7/1/2008 5:37 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2008
Posts: 53
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I listened to this one on CD and I loved it. The story is great and whoever read it did a fantastic job. Then last year I found a like new paperback copy at a library book sale for .50. You can't beat that!

I agree the writing probably won't appeal to everybody but I will be very excited to read the sequel or anything else by this author.

Catspaw avatar
Date Posted: 7/2/2008 10:23 AM ET
Member Since: 7/14/2007
Posts: 8,942
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I enjoyed t, but it really did feel like a full immersion study of the alternate universe.  The extensive footnoting was really interesting, but gave me flashbacks to law school! 

I have a copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu, but haven't touched it yet.

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