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1806. Dans une Angleterre usée par les guerres napoléoniennes, un magicien à l'ancienne mode, Mr Norrell, offre ses services afin d'empêcher l'avancée de la flotte française. En quelques jours, les Anglais ont repris l'avantage. Norrell devient la coqueluche du pays. C'est alors qu'il fait la connaissance d'un jeune et brillant magicien, Jonathan Strange. Ensemble, les deu 1806. Dans une Angleterre usée par les guerres napoléoniennes, un magicien à l'ancienne mode, Mr Norrell, offre ses services afin d'empêcher l'avancée de la flotte française. En quelques jours, les Anglais ont repris l'avantage. Norrell devient la coqueluche du pays. C'est alors qu'il fait la connaissance d'un jeune et brillant magicien, Jonathan Strange. Ensemble, les deux hommes vont éblouir l'Angleterre par leurs prouesses. Jusqu'à ce que l'audacieux Strange, attiré par les aspects les plus sombres de la magie, provoque la colère de Mr Norrell...


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1806. Dans une Angleterre usée par les guerres napoléoniennes, un magicien à l'ancienne mode, Mr Norrell, offre ses services afin d'empêcher l'avancée de la flotte française. En quelques jours, les Anglais ont repris l'avantage. Norrell devient la coqueluche du pays. C'est alors qu'il fait la connaissance d'un jeune et brillant magicien, Jonathan Strange. Ensemble, les deu 1806. Dans une Angleterre usée par les guerres napoléoniennes, un magicien à l'ancienne mode, Mr Norrell, offre ses services afin d'empêcher l'avancée de la flotte française. En quelques jours, les Anglais ont repris l'avantage. Norrell devient la coqueluche du pays. C'est alors qu'il fait la connaissance d'un jeune et brillant magicien, Jonathan Strange. Ensemble, les deux hommes vont éblouir l'Angleterre par leurs prouesses. Jusqu'à ce que l'audacieux Strange, attiré par les aspects les plus sombres de la magie, provoque la colère de Mr Norrell...

30 review for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    Sigh, just what we need, another revolutionary, unusual fantasy book by an author with a practiced mastery of tone. When will authors like Clarke realize that what the fantasy genre needs are more pseudo-medieval monomyths that sprawl out into fifteen volumes? Her magic didn't conveniently solve all of the characters' problems, instead, they wasted time thinking through conflicts and then had to solve them by taking action; how dull is that? The magic was weird, anyways. It didn't have a simplist Sigh, just what we need, another revolutionary, unusual fantasy book by an author with a practiced mastery of tone. When will authors like Clarke realize that what the fantasy genre needs are more pseudo-medieval monomyths that sprawl out into fifteen volumes? Her magic didn't conveniently solve all of the characters' problems, instead, they wasted time thinking through conflicts and then had to solve them by taking action; how dull is that? The magic was weird, anyways. It didn't have a simplistic, internal system to allow it to act as a one-for-one substitute with technology, it was just all unpredictable and otherworldly and unknowable--how can you even call that 'magic'? And the characters were overly-complicated. Instead of acting as recognizable archetypes, they were complex, conflicted, and developed as the story progressed. For some reason, they also seemed hesitant to fall back on the default plan of attacking anything that gets in their way, which was probably why this book was so long. I guess they just didn't have a strong enough sense of honor to instantly kill anyone who opposed them. And then, instead of having her characters laboriously explain how the world worked to each other, she made brief mentions in footnotes, as if she were writing a history. I'm not sure why she made this decision, I often explain to my friends in basic terms how cars and money work in our culture, so it's clear that endless expositionary dialogue is the most realistic way to inform the reader. I mean, I guess you could just have the omniscient narrator tell us everything in detail, that's almost as good. Come to think of it, this book had a lot of history stuff, it was almost like she had read a whole bunch about the period her book was set in, which is such a waste of time, because if that's what I wanted, I'd just read a history book. I mean sure, the author could take some vague things from a period, but otherwise they should just treat everything as if it were the modern day so it'll make sense. Besides, if she had any errors, she could just remind us that 'it's fiction!', so it's all fake anyways and it's pointless to try to make it seem real. I guess she thought she was Jane Austen, or something, gradually building a tonal portrait of the world and revealing the characters through details of action and conversation. I don't know why she would try to write like those boring, old, dead authors, they wouldn't have to make us read them in school if they were good. I should have known it was going to be bad when I saw it had footnotes in it, like a textbook or something, but I tried not to read any of them because I didn't want to accidentally learn some stupid fact (and then be STUCK with it FOREVER), because I'm saving up that brain space to memorize the lineage of the ninth house of the Dragonpriests of Ur, or maybe which incantation can counterspell the splash damage effect of a lesser draconic fireball. So the whole book, I kept waiting for one of the women to be raped (or at the very least threatened with rape), or maybe enslaved, or for someone to be put in a collar and tortured by a woman in leather, or to be spanked in public as part of some cultural ritual, or to walk through flames while spraying breastmilk everywhere, or some other perfectly normal expression of human sexuality, but don't bother waiting, you'll only be disappointed. Really, the only thing that could have made it worse is if it were illustrated by Charles Vess, like the equally hopeless sequel. So yeah, basically this book is WAY TOO LONG! I mean, it was totally worth it for me to read the first five twelve-hundred-page books of the Dragonkingspell Cycle (it starts to get good at book six), but that's nothing compared to how much it tried my patience to read this book. I probably wouldn't have been able to finish it if I didn't need something to read while waiting twelve years for Jeb R.R.R. Franzibald to finish book seven. But I guess if you like a well-researched, historically accurate book that doesn't tell the same, familiar story, doesn't use magic as a plot facilitator, reads like a Gothic novel, slowly builds the story based on psychologically-developed characters, and is obsessed with tone, then this is the book for you! Congratulations. Otherwise, you can sit around with me and hope the author of our favorite series doesn't die before finishing vol. XVIII of The Epic Magic Sword of the Undead Dragon Throne Saga Duovigintilogy, where we will finally discover whether the badass, outcast, swordmaster, dragonrider assassin prince defeats the great evil, once and for all (with the help of his trusty albino wolf/girlfriend, of course). My Fantasy Book Suggestions

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Without a doubt the best book I have read this year. I write that without hesitation and with a beaming smile on my face. Incredible. Enthralling. Amazing. The book was over 800 pages long and it did not seem long enough. When I finished the book, I immediately turned out the light and tried to drift off to sleep, because I knew nothing else I did that night was going to top the feeling I got after blowing through the last 100 pages like a madwoman. I want to start it over again, immediately. The Without a doubt the best book I have read this year. I write that without hesitation and with a beaming smile on my face. Incredible. Enthralling. Amazing. The book was over 800 pages long and it did not seem long enough. When I finished the book, I immediately turned out the light and tried to drift off to sleep, because I knew nothing else I did that night was going to top the feeling I got after blowing through the last 100 pages like a madwoman. I want to start it over again, immediately. The book is like reading Dickens, with the dialogue of Jane Austen, and the best writing of every classic fantasy I've read. All at once. Clarke manages to pay her homage while being entirely original herself. And the pages just keep turning and turning. You almost don't notice as 200 pages go by in less than two hours. This is a book to devour. Again, and again, and again. For those who have never been interested in the fantasy genre before, do not be put off. It's not even about the fantasy, though of course it is a major presence and the plot focuses around it. History geeks: There are three delightful, hilarious appearances by Wellington, George III and Lord Byron, as well as various Cabinet ministers of the time period. The prose is wonderful, dead-on. Clarke has the ability to shift seamlessly from witty, sarcastic, detached prose and dialogue in the style of Jane Austen or Oscar Wilde: "These ladies and gentlemen, visitors to the city of Venice, were excessively pleased with the Campo Santa Maria Formosa. They thought the facades of the houses very magnificent- they could not praise them highly enough. But the sad decay which buildings, bridges and church all displayed seemed to charm them even more. They were Englishmen and, to them, the decline of other nations was the most natural thing in the world. They belonged to a race so blessed with so sensitive an appreciation of its own talents (and so doubtful an opinion of any body else's) that they would not have been at all surprised to learn that the Venetians themselves had been entirely ignorant of the merits of their own city- until Englishmen had come to tell them it was delightful." ... and then shift into lines that would do any fantasy author proud: "Spring returned to England. Birds followed ploughs. Stones were warmed by the sun. Rains and winds grew softer, and were fragranced by the scents of the earth and growing things. Woods were tinged with a colour so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all. It was more the /idea/ of a colour- as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts." Those quotes don't do it justice, they were just ones my eyes came across when I randomly opened pages. The writing is just beyond fantastic, to say the least. That, on top of an intriguing, well developed, /incredibly/ well researched portrait of England at the time of the Napoleonic wars? It manages to cover all the major areas that British literature is known for, all at once, in one book, and do them all justice. Clarke is also able to touch on a lot of serious issues that were present in England at the time: (racial relations, the problems of a hereditary ruling class..) She makes you aware of them as a background, but doesn't push them in your face. It's just another way she's able to make her evocation of the time period that much more perfect. ... I should perhaps have written this review with a greater distance from finishing the novel. But I think I'm justified in doing it now, if only to give an idea of the kind of amazing feeling that the book gives you from reading it and finishing it. Books like this are why I love literature. Read it. End of story. (... finally.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I so wanted to like this book. The idea is just wonderful. I was so pleased for a while to be in that world, a historical England. I love the dialogue and descriptions. And I love the idea of magic in an otherwise real setting, as though it were a normal part of our actual world. But it was so frustrating to read after a while. The footnotes, auuuugh, the footnotes. They were cute at first, because the book is written sort of like a history book from that period. But after a while they were just I so wanted to like this book. The idea is just wonderful. I was so pleased for a while to be in that world, a historical England. I love the dialogue and descriptions. And I love the idea of magic in an otherwise real setting, as though it were a normal part of our actual world. But it was so frustrating to read after a while. The footnotes, auuuugh, the footnotes. They were cute at first, because the book is written sort of like a history book from that period. But after a while they were just so long and so unrelated to the main story that they became seriously cumbersome. And just when the story would be getting involved, she'd fast forward 2 years or 10 years and the last part of the story, though unresolved, would be pretty much forgotten. Boooo! The end was annoying, or rather the way the main characters reacted to it. It's fiction, it's fantasy, but when you're writing about basic human beings who have otherwise behaved consistently throughout the book, and then they react to something in a way you know isn't consistent and isn't how people would act, it pops the bubble of your suspended disbelief and sort of ruins the story. Another annoying thing is that we keep waiting to learn more about why Mr. Norrell acts the way he does, but we never do learn. He's just a pill and that's it. That's poor writing, No motivations for him, no insight into his character. So really he just serves a function in the book that could have been served by an inanimate object. Overall the book is just filled with too many things that seem to have no point. It's not that they aren't interesting by themselves or couldn't have been made into something wonderful, it's just that they are tossed out there randomly and not connected to anything. In that way, the cold, dispassionate history book style disappoints, because what we really want is a story. We want to care about the characters and see resolution of some kind. Booo! There will apparently be more books set in this world, but I won't be reading them. It's just too much of a time investment in a seemingly great idea that doesn't pay off.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tiza

    Although Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell turns out to be a book I dearly love, I'm afraid I can't recommend it to just anyone. Whether you'll like it or not will truly depend on what you expect it to be. If you wish for a fast-paced excitement then this book is probably not for you. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a blend of meticulously researched historical fiction and imaginative fantasy, sprinkled here and there with biting social comedy, and written in a style similar to Austen's, whic Although Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell turns out to be a book I dearly love, I'm afraid I can't recommend it to just anyone. Whether you'll like it or not will truly depend on what you expect it to be. If you wish for a fast-paced excitement then this book is probably not for you. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a blend of meticulously researched historical fiction and imaginative fantasy, sprinkled here and there with biting social comedy, and written in a style similar to Austen's, which is, of course, relevant to the age in which the story takes place, the early years of 19th century England. The plot mainly focuses in the revival of magic in England, an art that has been long fallen into disuse but still theoretically studied by many. Among these people two gentlemen who actually practise the art come into the spotlight: the tedious, reclusive Gilbert Norrell and his pupil Jonathan Strange. The story further unfurls with the appearance of a certain silver-haired fairy, Norrell's and Strange's involvements in the Napoleonic Wars, and also the revelation of the prophecy of The Raven King in all its mythical grandeur. JS & MN is a long, meandering read that needs to be slowly savored, not to be rushed. I started reading it feeling a little bit wary myself,the first hundred pages being undeniably dragging. But I soon came to a certain point where something just clicked, and from there on it was almost impossible to put it down. This book is over 1000 pages long, and yet, as I close the book in completion, I asked myself of how 1000 pages could seemingly be so terribly short. For me, who end up liking this book, JS & MN is a true charmer, compelling in all its subtlety, imaginative, witty and beautifully written. Clarke has a flair in language use. She employs the right words at all the right moments to make us feel exactly what she intends us to feel, and see exactly what she wants us to see. With this ability at hands she creates a fine balance of myths, magic, history, warfare, politic and mundane domestic life. Clarke treats magic as an object of study in the truest sense. Some parts of the book read like an academic essay, with long studious arguments of why such and such magic can or cannot be done, various citations from the works of great magicians long dead, and insanely lengthy footnotes (which people ever so often think as annoying distractions, yet I found them really fun to read). She also has a perfect grasp about the age in which her characters are living. Thus her writing comes off convincingly like a product of 19th century British literature (though it has the virtue of being more comprehensible), perfectly written with all the old spellings: chuse, sopha, shew, surprize. Clarke's characterization is definitely one of the best elements in the book. The characters, be it the main protagonists or otherwise, are solidly drawn and interesting, as lovable as they are flawed. Strange, though not someone who is altogether admirable, is charming and generally more likable, and yet narrow-minded Norrell, with all his jealousy and peevishness, feels all too human that I couldn't help but sympathise with him even when I didn't want to. A literary merit though this book is, please be warned that not everyone will find it fascinating. If you're halfway through the book and it still doesn't pique your interest, put it down then, save your precious time. But if you're halfway through and already been absorbed it's very likely you'll be graced with something that stays with you days and weeks after you finished reading it. I know it did this for me. Definitely one of those rare treats I'd be willingly and gladly re-read each year.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

    Jesus Christ, this book reads like molasses. It's like the author took every book from her Brit Lit class and consciously tried to make it wordier and longer than all of them combined. I get the point she wants to make, but I honestly could not get past the second chapter. It also was so incredibly pretentious. The whole thing has this superior feel, like having a conversation with someone who is absolutely reassured of how much smarter they are than you. It left me feeling bored, stupid, depres Jesus Christ, this book reads like molasses. It's like the author took every book from her Brit Lit class and consciously tried to make it wordier and longer than all of them combined. I get the point she wants to make, but I honestly could not get past the second chapter. It also was so incredibly pretentious. The whole thing has this superior feel, like having a conversation with someone who is absolutely reassured of how much smarter they are than you. It left me feeling bored, stupid, depressed and confused, and those are four words that I do not like to associate with reading. If you really want to plow through a novel like this, just go read some Charles Dickens. You get used to him after a few pages and you start to like him after the first chapter. Clarke, however, never redeems herself.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bookdragon Sean

    Book like this are not written anymore. This feels like it should have been published in the nineteenth century and not because of the obvious setting, but because of the remarkable writing style. It is very similar to Austen’s that I’m sure she might have been delighted by Clarke’s work. Well, maybe. But, either way novelists like this do not exist in this age, unfortunately. The writing has the feel of a classic, but the plot has the feel of a thoroughly charming fantasy. This is a work of co Book like this are not written anymore. This feels like it should have been published in the nineteenth century and not because of the obvious setting, but because of the remarkable writing style. It is very similar to Austen’s that I’m sure she might have been delighted by Clarke’s work. Well, maybe. But, either way novelists like this do not exist in this age, unfortunately. The writing has the feel of a classic, but the plot has the feel of a thoroughly charming fantasy. This is a work of complete magical genius Indeed, she has written it in the pastiche style of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens; she has used their language style, narrative techniques and masterful characterisations to create a novel that is a superb work of fantasy. If Austen or Dickens strayed away from their realism novels then this is what it could look like. Susanna Clarke is an absolute wonderful writer. I wish there were more writers like her. Words, literally, cannot express my reverence for this novel: I simply adore it. The plot is incredible. Imagine an England in the nineteenth century, not much unlike the real one, that is prosperous, full of gentleman and completely devoid of all magic and fantasy: it reeks of realism. The inhabitants are offended by the idea of magic being reputable; the very thought is inconceivable. Magic is not respectable because the streets are infested with street performers and fakes that claim to do magic. There are also theoretical magicians who merely study its principals and have never succeeded in the practical side. However, there is one man in England who has spent the last forty years buried under a pile of books. His name is Mr Norrell, and he is the greatest magician of the age. A friendship of necessity Norrell is a bibliophile; he is a book hoarder and is quite possible the biggest bookworm that has ever lived. (I give him a silent bow.) He has devised his own system of magic that is reputable and gentleman like: it is modern magic. He keeps his perilous, and beloved, tomes to himself. He fears that such deadly books will be misused, but he also wants to be the only man in England that knows their secrets. Behind his mask of propriety and professionalism there is a soul that longs for the ancient magic that he detest so vehemently. This magic is powered by fate, and demands that two magicians, not one, must restore magic to dreary old England. “I have a scholar's love of silence and solitude. To sit and pass hour after hour in idle chatter with a roomful of strangers is to me the worst sort of torment.” The second magician is called Johnathan Strange, and he becomes Norrell’s pupil much to the old man’s delight and dismay. Where Norrell is cautious, studious, and self-conceiting Strange is reckless, open to new knowledge and practical. He is eager to push the boundaries of his tutors limited approach to magic; he is eager to use the magic Norrel detests. He fights in the Napoleonic war to bring magic into high repute whereas his tutor stays in his library doing weather magic to dog the French. Strange is young and energetic, but he also is practical to the needs of his country. “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 would.” It is no wonder then that England prefers Strange to his tutor. However, only with his mentor can Strange attempt to restore English magic. The two are complete opposites, and only side by side can the opposing magicians restore magic to a dreary and bleak England: only together can they bring back the Raven King. The relationship between the two men, for me, really elevated this novel to the next level. They begin as student and tutor, but end up as equals. The dynamics change between the two as student outshines tutor, and threatens to destroy everything he represents. Authenticity I think by setting this is an England that is realistic, and very true to the actual one, Clarke pulls at the heart strings of many a reader. I think this has affected so many readers for the same reason the Harry Potter series did. Clarke, like Rowling, shows us a world that is dry and boring; it is infested by those that have no affinity for magic. Then underneath it all they both reveal worlds that are enchanting and magical. Indeed, most people long for a sense of the fantastic and escape from the mundane realism that is their life. Well, at least I do. Clarke, like Rowling, offers a glimpse of a world that is like our own, only better. Moreover, the footnotes and magical text references, used by Clarke, help to add further weight to this feeling. These make the novel seem academic, and reflect the age in which it was set, they give a sense of actuality behind the fantastical. Some of the footnotes are huge, and they do interrupt the narrative. However, this is a more effective means of delivery the history of such a beautiful world than, for example, having the characters reproduce is verbatim in speech. I think it’s a much less awkward way, and creates the sense that this world could exist, should exist. In addition to this, the structure of the novel reflects the age in which it represents. The novel is divided into three volumes, and towards the end Clarke utilises the hugely popular, and utterly brilliant, epistolary means of storytelling. Both demonstrate a norm of novel writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which reflects the novel structure associated with the time. The language Clarke uses is akin to the wonderful Jane Austen, and the underline sarcasm, like in Austen’s works, is apparent. Indeed, Clarke continuously mocks Napoleon Bonaparte; I disagree with her assessment of him, however, the opinion she wields reflects that of the English at the time, so in a sense it enhances the feeling afore mentioned. I adore this book This book is simply brilliant. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to articulate exactly how wonderful it is. If I had magic I could show you, but, alas, I am a mere theoretical magician. Seriously though, I get emotional when I think about the sheer excellence of this book; I’ve read this twice now and in all honesty I can say that I immediately want to read it again. Strange and Norrel are two of the most interesting, and well written, characters I’ve ever read about. They are both right in their arguments, and both wrong. It’s such a unique and memorable relationship. “There is nothing else in magic but the wild thought of the bird as it casts itself into the void. There is no creature upon the earth with such potential for magic. Even the least of them may fly straight out of this world and come by chance to the Other Lands. Where does the wind come from that blows upon your face, that fans the pages of your book? Where the harum-scarum magic of small wild creatures meets the magic of Man, where the language of the wind and the rain and the trees can be understood, there we will find the Raven King.” I could only ever give this book five stars, I’d give it more if I could. Bravo Susanna Clarke! This book has quite literally floored me. If anybody takes a single recommendation of mine remotely seriously, then take this one because this novel is incredible!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jayson

    (B+) 77% | Good Notes: Very slow paced and the ending doesn’t justify its length, but characters are strong and it shows flashes of brilliance.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    If a novel of nearly 900 pages can be summarised in one phrase then Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell may, I think, be described as a stately, sly, witty, intricate, comic retelling of Dracula, with digressions and very little blood. Count Dracula takes life from beautiful young ladies, enslaves them, enchants them, enraptures them, steals them away, into his own twilight (oops, sorry) vampire world – they become something other than what they were, undead, not alive yet not dead, creatures which If a novel of nearly 900 pages can be summarised in one phrase then Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell may, I think, be described as a stately, sly, witty, intricate, comic retelling of Dracula, with digressions and very little blood. Count Dracula takes life from beautiful young ladies, enslaves them, enchants them, enraptures them, steals them away, into his own twilight (oops, sorry) vampire world – they become something other than what they were, undead, not alive yet not dead, creatures which do his bidding (the company I work for does something quite similar so it appears to be legal). In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a fairy does exactly the same thing, but there's no blood involved, just a little magic. In Dracula it takes quite a while before the heroes realise what’s happening to their gorgeous young women (in both books the gorgeousness is emphasised, I do like that, you know, since they're imaginary why can't they be drop dead too? hmm, probably the wrong phrase). But compared with Mr Strange and Mr Norrell, the Dracula boys are quick on the uptake. Because we’re past page 600 before the penny drops in this one. THE ARBITRARINESS OF MAGIC One of my problems with this giant enfolding fog of a book is the nature of magic itself. In Dracula Van Helsing lays out the rules about vampires for the readers – they can do this but they can’t do that; sunlight, shape-shifting; silver; crosses; all of that. He later wrote the Observer Book of Vampires (Heinemann, 1911) and it's all in there. The rules are the rules. Many young leary vampires have been struck off for thinking that they were too cool for rules. Governing committee : You were seen buying maximum factor sunblock in Superdrug three Saturdays in a row. Young cool vampire : Yeah well, my girlfriend wants me to go camping with her family next week. Governing committee : Under section 3 subsection 2 paragraph B I hereby strike you off the official list of vampires. YCV : But but GC : Beat it, kid, don't waste our time. This is a serious business. But there are no rules for magic - at least, none discernable. The rule seems to be - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Mr Strange goes to war to help the English fight Napoleon Boney. In Portugal he is able to create good roads where only mud tracks exist for the English Army to march down. Later he is able to make magical hands arise from the earth and entangle the French troops; but he doesn’t do any magic to prevent the English troops being massacred by cannonballs and artillery – what, no magical winds available to blow the cannonballs off course? But pardon, Mr Strange, elsewhere don’t you say that weather magic is the easiest sort to do? So whyever not? Well, we are not told. He never thinks of doing it, never thinks of alleviating the English troops’ suffering. Susanna Clark says in an interview that she wished to show that people’s romantic or over-optimistic notions of magic were to be disappointed by the unsatisfactoriness of her version of magic. I take that argument, it’s a good one, but it does not solve the difficulty of arbitrariness and the lack of any rules or boundaries. When anything can happen, and then at some other point, for unknown reasons, the same thing can’t happen, the element of tension simply disappears in a cloud of smoke – poof! As if by magic. BIPOLARITY I thought that the villain in this novel was certainly suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Alas that the story took place in the 1810s, when mood stabilising medication had not yet been developed. If the gentleman with the thistledown hair had been prescribed Carbamazepine, Lamotrigine or Lithium I am quite sure the whole thing with the ladies would have never happened and the misunderstanding and antagonisms between him and the two magicians would never have arisen in the first place. STYLE It has been said this novel is like Dickens. It is not. Those who say that have not read Dickens. Do not believe them. It is said that this novel is like Jane Austen. Okay, with your left eye closed and your right eye squinched up and tilting the novel at a slight angle, then yes, it is. But don’t say it too loudly or Jane Austen fans might beat you lightly with their lace doileys. PACING The good news : the story definitely picks up around page 650. That is the good news. SHOULD YOU READ THIS BOOK? For readers thinking about giving this one a go , you should know a few things. Half of this novel is quite a bit longer than most other novels, so unless you like slow, laborious build-ups (this is not the magical equivalent of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill), intricate fake-scholarly footnotes recounting mad details about non-existent books, people, folk-tales, all pseudo-erudite tomfoolery calculated to flesh out the magical world whilst at the same time giving the reader many large winks along the lines “aren’t we having some scholarly fun? Isn’t this a thinking person’s hoot?”; unless you like many pages spent fretting about whether Mr Norrell will lend Mr Strange a particular book (this will-he won’t-he theme gets a little tiresome, so I’ll let you know – big plot spoiler - he doesn’t – now you can skip those bits); unless you like your reading to be languid, leisurely, luxurious, learned, leavened with loopy legerdemain and long, long, long, this may not be the one for you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    Neil Gaiman said that this book is "hard to overpraise", I will make an attempt thus: While I was reading the second half of this book it occurred to me that I don't actually need to read any other novel ever again, I could just read this one book over and over again for the rest of my days and when the Grim Reaper calls I shall have this book clutched possessively in my stiff, unyielding fingers. Momentary insanity of course, but it is indicative of the devotion I feel toward this book. With in t Neil Gaiman said that this book is "hard to overpraise", I will make an attempt thus: While I was reading the second half of this book it occurred to me that I don't actually need to read any other novel ever again, I could just read this one book over and over again for the rest of my days and when the Grim Reaper calls I shall have this book clutched possessively in my stiff, unyielding fingers. Momentary insanity of course, but it is indicative of the devotion I feel toward this book. With in the first page or two I was already feeling very friendly toward this book because of the prose. Ms. Clarke seems to be channelling Jane Austen by way of Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, Hans Christian Andersen, with some dark sprinkles of Poe and Lovecraft. I grew increasingly fond of the book page by page until I was ready to put it on a pedestal and worship it by the time I reached in end. The basic outline of the story is that it concerns the titular Jonathan and Mr. Norrell. Mr Norway brings magic back to England, takes on Mr. strange as his pupil, the two gentlemen later become rivals. Their interrelationship is the backbone of this long book that features wonderful characters, humour, sadness, heroism, redemption and magic, not to mention non-stop dancing and cameos by Napoleon Bonaparte Lord Byron and crazy King George III. Normally when I read a long book of more than 700 pages in length I like to pause at about half way through, pick up a shorter book to read to the finish and go back to the long book. For me it helps to relieve the impatience from spending so much time with just one book. However, with this book* it is impossible, I could not extricate myself from it. I am a slowish reader and I spent about two weeks living and breathing this book and now that I have finish it I feel a little disoriented. Also, I tend to feel more comfortable reading SF than fantasy, the problem I personally have with a lot of fantasy is suspension of disbelief when magic manifests in some way. The pacing of this book is so perfect and the magic so skillfully and gradually woven into the story that I no problem throwing disbelief out the window and just settle down and immerse into this magical version of England. Overpraise this book? Impossible! _______________________ * I read the Kindle edition, the footnotes are hypertext links that jump to the back of the book (after the novel is ended), I had to ensure that I bookmark the page before I click on any footnote otherwise it would have been difficult to find my way back. Footnotes(!) • A footnote about the footnotes. I am tempted to knock off one star for the over abundance of footnotes, I am personally not keen on them as they interrupt the flow of the story for me. However, it would be ill-bred of me to use my own preferences as the standard for quality assessment. The fact is that lots of people like them and I think that justify their existence; not to mention that they are as beautifully written as the main body of the book. It is also worth mentioning that you can skip them entirely and still follow the story without missing a beat. I skimmed them and I intend to go back to read them all. Besides, this book deserves at least a billion stars rating and Goodreads can only cope with five, so if I did knock off one star nobody would notice. • Have a look at Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell fan arts at Deviant Art. A wiki devoted to this book is also available for in-depth info. _______________________________ Update June 2015: • Neil Gaiman: Why I love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell • Susanna Clarke on the TV Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: ‘My own characters were walking about!’ • I love the BBC adaptation. The AV Club's reviews here. • According to Wikipedia Susanna Clarke is working on another book set in the Strange & Norrell universe (so the word sequel may be inappropriate). Don't hold your breath waiting for it though because it took her ten years to write Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by the time she publishes this second novel there may be flying cars and hoverboards on the street.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    If a writer is going to publish a book this big (thousand plus pages) then it must be very good, or the readers will never know about the thousands plus pages beyond the heft as they toss it aside or by the thickness as it is put back on the shelf. This book is that good. Using language correct for the time period (Napoleonic Wards era, early 1800s) and richly complex characterizations reminiscent of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, author Susanna Clarke has crafted a gem. It was the winner of and If a writer is going to publish a book this big (thousand plus pages) then it must be very good, or the readers will never know about the thousands plus pages beyond the heft as they toss it aside or by the thickness as it is put back on the shelf. This book is that good. Using language correct for the time period (Napoleonic Wards era, early 1800s) and richly complex characterizations reminiscent of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, author Susanna Clarke has crafted a gem. It was the winner of and nominated for a host of awards like the Hugo, the Man Booker, Nebula, Locus, Guardian First Book, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic Fantasy, Book Sense and Cena Akademie SFFH. High accolades all and topped off with a gushing quote from none other than Neil Gaiman, who said: "Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years." So what is all the fuss about? Clarke has created an alternate history where magic is an excepted and realized fact of English history and life. In this reality, a magician king had ruled Northern England for centuries and then disappeared, and two unassuming and scholarly types go their own way in trying to restore magic to England. To create a surprisingly seamless magical (pun intended) realism, Clarke employed the inclusion of or reference to the following: Francisco Goya, Frances Burney, William Beckford, Monk Lewis, Lord Byron, and Ann Radcliffe; publisher John Murray; politicians Lord Castlereagh and George Canning; the Duke of Wellington and the crazy as a Marsh Hare, King George III. All that and an unnamed faerie king with issues. I will admit here that I went to Wikipedia and searched for the Raven King and John Uskglass and felt like an idiot when I realized she had landed me hook, line and sinker. A brilliant work and a must read for fans of the fantasy genre.

  11. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    the hero of this novel, Mr. Norrell, is in many ways a stranger in a strange land, uncomfortable with base emotions and disappointed with the shabbiness and inadequacies of others... yet always yearning for true companionship. a dignified, erudite, and refined gentleman; quietly soulful and elegantly restrained; commanding in his encyclopedic knowledge of the magical arts. the other character, a fey and unreliable sort apparently named "Jonathan Strange", offers fleeting friendship that is quick the hero of this novel, Mr. Norrell, is in many ways a stranger in a strange land, uncomfortable with base emotions and disappointed with the shabbiness and inadequacies of others... yet always yearning for true companionship. a dignified, erudite, and refined gentleman; quietly soulful and elegantly restrained; commanding in his encyclopedic knowledge of the magical arts. the other character, a fey and unreliable sort apparently named "Jonathan Strange", offers fleeting friendship that is quickly frittered away in tawdry misadventure, misplaced romance, and other assorted bits of ill-conceived and juvenile tomfoolery, often abroad, often with a host of questionable characters. even worse, Strange's nascent addictive personality rears its dark dark head, causing all sorts of trouble with various dire characters that were once thought lost in history. fortunately, Mr. Norrell is a stalwart and brave ally, and his careful guidance soon sets things in their natural order - no thanks to the whimsical and unreliable Strange. *** an awesome book, one of my favorites. the comparisons with Austen & Dickens have been made repeatedly; i agree. it almost seems silly to review this - it is like some kind of immense edifice, some giant piece of art, or something, that folks should just experience rather than read about. the pacing moves from snail-like and digressive to hallucinatory and lightning fast. the characters are wonderfully complicated. the magic is fascinating. the whole thing is smart and funny and melancholy and charming and just brilliant. plus the footnotes: fantastic! this is a huge novel but i wasn't bored for a second. i hope this never becomes a movie.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carol.

    In the beginning was a preface, and then an introduction, followed by some exposition, and then an opening. Looking through the reviews, it appears many people either adore it or hate it. Frankly, I'm in neither camp, because I can't work up enough emotion to care. It took a long time to become interested, and I finally had to resort to a strategy of reading only a few chapters at a time, setting free any expectation that this was a book that would pull me in and never let me go. It became the p In the beginning was a preface, and then an introduction, followed by some exposition, and then an opening. Looking through the reviews, it appears many people either adore it or hate it. Frankly, I'm in neither camp, because I can't work up enough emotion to care. It took a long time to become interested, and I finally had to resort to a strategy of reading only a few chapters at a time, setting free any expectation that this was a book that would pull me in and never let me go. It became the perfect book to read before bed, a non-habit forming Ambien that avoided unpleasant dreams while lulling me into sleep. The language and structure of the tale is a formidable barrier to easy enjoyment; this is Great Expectations, the original, uncut director's copy, thick enough in mass market paperback to soak with water and turn into a paper-mache brick. The final obstacle to delight is the general distastefulness of Mr. Norrell. This is improved somewhat when Jonathan Strange enters the tale, and for a while I was able to read without Mr. Sandman paying a visit. I found much of the tale to be philosophizing about the character of England, and the distinctions between the north and the south tedious as they are somewhat non-accessible and lack relevance to the non-English. In some ways, I suspect the cultural conflict might resemble American regional conflicts, but it takes a talented author to make the conflict relevant across oceans and time. I understand Clarke is doing; I just lack interest in the subject matter, so the voice starts to sound a lot like the adults in Charlie Brown. Muhua wa wa... Unfortunately, the writing style and its take on various popular Victorian styles is monotonous for me. Although I enjoy the 19th century British mysteries, and Wodehousian humor, Clarke has neither the tightly woven mystery nor the snappy dialogue that keeps me interested in those forms. When it comes to writing style, I can see why some people would find her writing interesting, especially if they are fans of the time period; it just fails to resonate for me in the way it is presented. The footnotes are occasionally amusing as they frequently contain opinionated commentary. I read recently that Clarke wrote the story in "bundles" and ended up working at fitting them together. In retrospect, this might explain some of the jumps in plotting and setting, and account for the way plots were set down and then picked up a hundred pages later. I was pleased to discover the magical or supernatural elements play a larger role than I expected from reading other reviews. One of the characters and plotlines I struggled with was that of the "white-haired gentleman." While it certainly brought magical elements to the story, I felt like he was a distraction and never fully woven into the plot. His obsession with Stephen, was particularly odd, and I never felt like I understood it's connection to Norrell and Strange. Clarke does sprinkle gentle humor throughout the story that occasionally caused twitters or giggles. One of the first lines to make me laugh: "He was so clean and healthy and pleased about everything that he positively shone--which is only to be expected in a fairy or an angel but is somewhat disconcerting in an attorney." Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Also posted on Fantasy Literature: Tadiana: This book is like a mashup of Jane Austen, or maybe Charles Dickens, and fantasy, with Regency-era British magicians and charming, vindictive and devious faeries. It creates an incredibly rich, complex and detailed fantasy world; the Raven King mythology is fantastic. The main plotline of this novel deals with the on-and-off friendship between two very different magicians: Mr Norrell, who is bookish, stuffy and reclusive, and Jonathan Strange, who's a Also posted on Fantasy Literature: Tadiana: This book is like a mashup of Jane Austen, or maybe Charles Dickens, and fantasy, with Regency-era British magicians and charming, vindictive and devious faeries. It creates an incredibly rich, complex and detailed fantasy world; the Raven King mythology is fantastic. The main plotline of this novel deals with the on-and-off friendship between two very different magicians: Mr Norrell, who is bookish, stuffy and reclusive, and Jonathan Strange, who's a younger, charming and impetuous person, and their dealings and troubles with Faerie and other magical places and characters, but there are several subplots intricately woven into this tale. It thoughtfully explores some interesting issues that you wouldn't expect, like the difficulties women, servants and minorities have had in making their voices heard. This is a truly unique and inventive novel. It challenged my brain and fascinated me. I adored it. Rest of book club: This book is soooo long. And kind of confusing, not to mention slow and boring. Tadiana: I love the dry humor. The tongue-in-cheek quasi-scholarly footnotes totally crack me up. Rest of book club: Seriously, what is the deal with those bizarre footnotes? They're just weird. Tadiana: Imma buy this in hardback and keep it forever. Rest of book club: DNF

  14. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    In the early part of the nineteenth -century there arose in northern England, ( well one by the border of Wales) two powerful magicians, old bookworm Gilbert Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey, always reading in his immense, dark library, obscure, ancient, dusty books on the subject that he cares only about, magic, and young, tall Jonathan Strange, who inherited like his future short friend, tutor and rival Mr. Norrell, (not interested then, in wizardry) a vast amount of property and money. Around the cit In the early part of the nineteenth -century there arose in northern England, ( well one by the border of Wales) two powerful magicians, old bookworm Gilbert Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey, always reading in his immense, dark library, obscure, ancient, dusty books on the subject that he cares only about, magic, and young, tall Jonathan Strange, who inherited like his future short friend, tutor and rival Mr. Norrell, (not interested then, in wizardry) a vast amount of property and money. Around the city of York magic flourished, both resided in small villages many miles from the unknown other, Mr. Strange is quite different from the mysterious recluse Gilbert, no books of the supernatural, soon to be married, likes to get out of his house, (Ashfair) mingle with people, have fun and live...In the Fall (Autumn) of 1806, a society of magicians in York, met every week in a rundown inn and discussing, ( sometimes tempers flare) what else, magic, that they were amateurs and couldn't do any spells, didn't matter, passion was the only importance . Sending letters to the private Mr.Norrell, after discovering he was the true article, a practicing, accomplished man , in the fine art of conjuring, asking him to appear at their next meeting, he declines, they write back a disrespectful note; a contract is drawn up, the angry magician does show his skill in the city's Cathedral, only his servant John Childermass is present, the frightened society of not able men see stones move, they quickly disband as the agreement stated... The bored Mr.Strange, doesn't know what should be his profession, his would be fiancee Arabella, is anxious to know before consenting to marry him, nothing interest, the rich man except an unusual, vague liking of magic... and the weird thing is, he's good at it. Newspaper stories about this incident at the church, makes Mr.Norrell famous in London, he travels there, yet it takes many parties and gatherings, to reach his goal, he has a few friends to tell him what is required , time passes by, finally meeting influential government officials, after bringing back a dead woman to life, he can be useful to the authorities in fighting Napoleon...making phantom ships, that scare the French. Naturally Jonathan Strange wants to talk to the great Mr.Norrell, visits him in the capital and impressed by his abilities, the famous enchanter makes Jonathan, his pupil, but of course they get on each others nerves. And still an almighty, odd, evil spirit, a faerie, much more fearsome, than either of the magicians, lurks about bringing death and destruction, everywhere. ..The government takes the young man to Portugal, to help the Duke of Wellington, (at first not taken seriously, by the unruffled general ) fight the French invaders, crisscrossing that nation and Spain also, fixing roads, confusing the enemy, changing the course of rivers, the bloody battles go on year after bloody year, he, Mr.Strange, becomes immune to the carnage...This fantasy, an alternative history of Britain, is a wonderful fable for anyone interested in magic, makes it seem that it really exist , nevertheless, will entertain and bring pure joy to those people, the grateful readers, that want to be intrigued.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Evgeny

    Lately I became very fond of static pictures in my reviews. This book will have none. It deserves a very serious discussion and I feel the inclusion of pictures would provide a distraction from such. The best description of the book would be the following. Suppose Charles Dickens and Jane Austen had a love child – a daughter. A publisher was so thrilled by this that he promised to pay for a novel written by the daughter for each written word. The latter realized it would be a good time to take c Lately I became very fond of static pictures in my reviews. This book will have none. It deserves a very serious discussion and I feel the inclusion of pictures would provide a distraction from such. The best description of the book would be the following. Suppose Charles Dickens and Jane Austen had a love child – a daughter. A publisher was so thrilled by this that he promised to pay for a novel written by the daughter for each written word. The latter realized it would be a good time to take care of the retirement money. This is the result. Imagine going through an art museum. In every room you see easy on the eyes gorgeous paintings. After a while you realize the pictures are kind of the same in each room. A little after this you realize you might not have to go to the next room as you know what to expect from it, but you still struggle on. Your feet start hurting because of the distance you walked, but you still struggle on. A little after this you wish one of the visitors would stumble. You do not want for anything bad happen to this person; you just want for something to happen. You wish one of the paintings would fall down. You do not want a destruction of a priceless piece of art; you just want for something to happen. Still you struggle on and on. The plot is slow. “Dying snail” does not even begin to describe the pace. I looked through a few reviews of the novel and practically none of them mentioned any details of the plot. Do you know why? It is because even two-line description would give away at least 75% of the book which in this case means around 700 pages. I do not think it feels slow because we became used to faster-moving stories in literature; I recalled the works of the two British classics I mentioned in the beginning of the review and the pace of the plot in the majority of their books makes them feel like cheetah compared to this one. Oh, did I mention the plot is very slow? If you need proof of this, I can give you complete spoiler and tell about everything what happened in the whole 900 pages in just four short sentences. Do not believe me? (view spoiler)[Magic used to big a big part of life in Great Britain, but now it is practically forgotten. One person is determined to bring it back. He takes an apprentice. They start having disagreements about magic practicing. (hide spoiler)] I swear I did not skip any major events in my spoiler. Footnotes deserve a special mention. There are quite a few of them. Some of them are several pages long. While they do interrupt the smooth flow of the tale, especially considering its length I did not mind them. It actually has been a while since I saw large quantity of lengthy footnotes in the modern fiction. I strongly suspect the popularity of ebooks would kill them off eventually. I feel like a have schizophrenia while trying to say what I think about this book. One of my personalities really liked it. Another one got bored fairly quickly. This never happened to me before. Mr. Norrell is not convincing as a character. He too seems to have schizophrenia (this particular mental disorder seems to be a recurring theme in my review). One moment he is a sly trickster who managed to disband the whole Magician Society of York simply because he feels like it and another he is a shy introvert who is completely lost at a high class ball and who decides to hide himself in a dark corner not to be in a way of anybody. This example comes from the beginning of the book, but such behavior is typical for him thorough the whole story. He simply acts in any way the plot demands at the moment. Jonathan Strange feels more alive and it is no wonder the book became a little more exciting after his appearance. I never bothered to care about Mr. Norrell, but Jonathan Strange was at least interesting to follow around. Too bad he only appeared after one third of the tale. I would like to mention the subplot of the gentleman with thistle-down hair has a very strong resemblance to some scenes of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, so I refer the people who liked that part to the excellent timeless classic by the Russian author. Speaking about characters I felt completely cold to all of them. I did not hate anybody, I did not care about anybody either. This left me as a dispassionate observer and not as a reader overcame by any kind of emotions. I really could not care less about what would happen to anybody, one way or the other. I would really like to mention something else, something not exactly politically correct. There is not a single woman in the book who can be called strong by any stretch of imagination. It did not prevent it from receiving a truckload of literary awards proving you do not absolutely need to have a strong woman in a book for it to be good. Still for people who want to have such characters: avoid this one. I can completely understand people who gave this one 5 stars. I can completely understand people who gave it 1 star. These two ratings seem to be the most common ones. I am going to be original in not following the opinions of the majority and give it the average of these: 3 stars. I hope I was able to explain the reason for my rating adequately. It is highly appropriate as for me 3 stars mean a good book which I will not reread. In this case I will not reread it even if somebody paid me for doing this; there are some things I will not do for any money – I have some principles after all – and this is one of them.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I finally finished! My paperback was more than 1,000 pages long, so this is a triumph. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a book that I started out loving, but the middle part dragged so much that I grew impatient for the story to end. I feel so differently about the two halves of the book that I wish I could issue two Goodreads ratings. Let's start with what I liked about this novel. Susanna Clarke has a great imagination and a good sense of humor. The story is set in the early 1800s in Engla I finally finished! My paperback was more than 1,000 pages long, so this is a triumph. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a book that I started out loving, but the middle part dragged so much that I grew impatient for the story to end. I feel so differently about the two halves of the book that I wish I could issue two Goodreads ratings. Let's start with what I liked about this novel. Susanna Clarke has a great imagination and a good sense of humor. The story is set in the early 1800s in England and follows the adventures of two magicians, Mr. Strange and Mr. Norrell. They have different opinions about magic, and while they start out as collaborators, they later become enemies. At different times, both magicians are enlisted to help the British Army and Navy in the Napoleonic Wars. (The extensive battle scenes are what started to drag down the book.) The story also involves a spiteful fairy, who likes to steal people away to his kingdom. The story builds until there is a fateful showdown between the mean fairy and the magicians. There's a lot else going on, but to try and summarize it all would drive me mad. Parts of this book were charming and amusing, and I sometimes smiled while reading, more so in the first half. Clarke's wit has been compared to Jane Austen's, but let's not get carried away, people. I'll grant that it's amusing, and Clarke captured some foibles of human nature. But this wouldn't make my list of things I regularly recommend to fans of Miss Austen. My complaints about the book revolve mostly around its epic, meandering story, which did not have to be 1,000 pages. This book was desperately in need of a tougher editor. Clarke also included lots of footnotes, most of which were too clever by half. I listened to this on audio, and the footnotes were read at the indicated place in the text, but if I had just read the print book I would have quickly grown irritated and skimmed all of them. My other frustration with this book was how dim-witted Strange and Norrell were. They were ridiculously slow to catch on to what the evil fairy was doing, despite the fact that they were supposed to be clever, powerful magicians. It seemed like the author was dragging out their ignorance in order to lengthen the story, which really didn't need any lengthening. While I do have complaints about this book, I did enjoy a good part of it. These epic novels are so difficult to rate. I think I'll give the first half a 4 and the last half a 3. I'll be generous and rate this a 3.5 rounded up to 4. Recommended, with caution, to those who like magical stories and British humor. Favorite Quotes "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 would." "Well, I suppose one ought not to employ a magician and then complain that he does not behave like other people." "I have a scholar's love of silence and solitude. To sit and pass hour after hour in idle chatter with a roomful of strangers is to me the worst sort of torment." "Houses, like people, are apt to become rather eccentric if left too much on their own; this house was the architectural equivalent of an old gentleman in a worn dressing-gown and torn slippers, who got up and went to bed at odd times of day, and who kept up a continual conversation with friends no one else could see." "Oh! And they read English novels! David! Did you ever look into an English novel? Well, do not trouble yourself. It is nothing but a lot of nonsense about girls with fanciful names getting married." "The argument he was conducting with his neighbor as to whether the English magician had gone mad because he was a magician, or because he was English."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    After a hiatus of several centuries since it was actively practiced, magic is back in early 19th century England. Clarke has created an alternate, magical history, in which England had once been divided between north and south, and a temporal and a fairy kingdom. Stuffy intellectuals satisfy themselves with studying the writings of the past, forming debating societies. But in 1807 a person emerges who dares to actually practice magic. Eddie Marsden as Mr Norrell - from AMC networks Mr Norrell is After a hiatus of several centuries since it was actively practiced, magic is back in early 19th century England. Clarke has created an alternate, magical history, in which England had once been divided between north and south, and a temporal and a fairy kingdom. Stuffy intellectuals satisfy themselves with studying the writings of the past, forming debating societies. But in 1807 a person emerges who dares to actually practice magic. Eddie Marsden as Mr Norrell - from AMC networks Mr Norrell is an arrogant fellow, convinced not only that he is the only decent practical magician in England, but that it would be best if he were the only one allowed to practice at all. He proceeds to play politics to sustain, increase and legitimize his monopoly. The emergence of a second practical magician presents a challenge, solved in the short term by taking on Jonathan Strange as a student. Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange Both magicians want to use their talent for the good of their country, and perform amusing and not so amusing spells on the French enemy. Ultimately they are faced with the growing emergence of a real, powerful, underlying magical realm. It intrudes on their lives and forces them to confront darkness while trying to master the unsuspected reality. Marc Warren as “The Gentleman” The book has a wonderful pretext, and the tale is told in a straight style, with more than a few touches of humor. It offers a look at how the new use the machinery of government to create a sinecure, how a need to impress can lead to corruption. It is fun to read, but does take quite a long time, and has sections in which it drags. It should probably have been shorter by a hundred or two hundred pages. Susanna Clarke - from Minnesota public radio Meanderings are many. In short, or long, it was enjoyable, and is recommended but not to the highest degree. Several award committees disagreed, holding it in significantly higher esteem. JS&MN was not only long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, it was short-listed for several other awards and won, among others, the World Fantasy award for best novel, the British Book Award for best newcomer of the Year, and the Hugo Award. The TV adaptation was shown beginning (in the USA anyway) in June 2015 Review posted – 10/29/2008 Updated and Reposted - 6/19/15 Publication date – 9/30/2004 =============================EXTRA STUFF I found no personal site for Clarke, nor, FB nor Twitter. Bloomsbury has put up a Facebook page for the book A particularly nifty site organizes people, places, et al, from the book. If you get heavily into the book, this is a must-have resource A nice, soft article on the author visiting the production set A 2004 interview with Clarke on the SF site A 2005 interview on Bookslut

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Stiefvater

    This slow burn historical fantasy (it really isn't a proper historical fantasy -- it's really told much more as a straight historical and the fantasy is bonus) is one of the best novels I've read -- ever. Clarke never breaks voice or changes her slow, relentless pacing. It's a novel meant to be savored over the course of a month, not rushed through -- so that you can properly appreciate the rush of the climax. ***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite This slow burn historical fantasy (it really isn't a proper historical fantasy -- it's really told much more as a straight historical and the fantasy is bonus) is one of the best novels I've read -- ever. Clarke never breaks voice or changes her slow, relentless pacing. It's a novel meant to be savored over the course of a month, not rushed through -- so that you can properly appreciate the rush of the climax. ***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite books -- not every book I read. Consider a novel's presence on my Goodreads bookshelf as a hearty endorsement. I can't believe I just said "hearty." It sounds like a stew.****

  19. 4 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    Tired of your workaday lives, Need to get away for a while? Come, sit a spell Let Susanna tell you a story. We go to England in the 1800’s, a time of the Napoleonic Wars, a time when most people believe magic to be dead in England. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell are two magicians attempting, each in their own way, to change that and restore magic to England. I can admit that it took me a while to find my legs here, acquire my own rhythm with the writing and the story. In many ways this reads lik Tired of your workaday lives, Need to get away for a while? Come, sit a spell Let Susanna tell you a story. We go to England in the 1800’s, a time of the Napoleonic Wars, a time when most people believe magic to be dead in England. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell are two magicians attempting, each in their own way, to change that and restore magic to England. I can admit that it took me a while to find my legs here, acquire my own rhythm with the writing and the story. In many ways this reads like a history lesson... The entire aspect and nature of magic and its history are all carefully and explicitly laid out, fully annotated with historical references that appear as footnotes (which while bitter at first, soon became delicious little bits that nourished and enriched). I came to crave them. Lord Byron and the Duke of Wellington, both, put in an appearance here, casually lending their historical pertinence, as England’s Prime Minister and his cabinet employ the magicians to assist in the battle against Napoleon. Susanna so deftly describes the two main protagonists, the magicians, so intricately, as to impart an intimate understanding of each of them. As opposite in character as they are in appearance Strange & Norrell command this stage, but along the way they share the spotlight, with a whole cast of others, people, that step right off the page: The man extracted himself from the hedge. This was no easy task because various parts of it – hawthorn twigs, elder branches, strands of ivy, mistletoe and witches broom – had insinuated themselves among his clothes, limbs and hair during the night or glued themselves to him with ice. He sat up. He did not seem in the least surprised to find he had an audience; one would almost have supposed from his behaviour that he had been expecting it. He looked at them all and gave several disparaging sniffs and snorts. He ran his fingers through his hair, removing dead leaves, bits of twig and half a dozen earwigs. “I reached out my hand” he muttered, to no-one in particular. “England’s rivers turned and flowed the other way.” He loosened his neckcloth and fished out some spiders which had taken up residence inside his shirt. In doing so, he revealed that his neck and throat were ornamented with an odd pattern of blue lines, dots, crosses and circles. Then he wrapped his neckcloth back about his neck and, having thus completed his toilet to his satisfaction, he rose to his feet. “My name is Vinculus”, he declared. What I loved most, as I listened to Susanna’s story was that it took me away, where a slow and curious sort of calm came over me. A kind of a hush, seemingly impenetrable, descended about me. A strange sense of quiet fell, like one might find in the wee hours of the morning. I relaxed, shook off the shackles of day to day and settled in, wholly immersed now and in no particular hurry, on this long, long journey. I stretched out my legs, met the man with the thistle-down hair and considered the colour of a heartache. I visited ballrooms and battlefields, travelled faerie roads, and searched for the Raven King. I watched the birds as they came to my feeder and fell away, to lost-hope house and all the mirrors of the world, utterly enchanted, and I believed. It was as if a door had opened somewhere. Or possibly a series of doors. There was a sensation as of a breeze blowing into the house and bringing with it the half- remembered scents of childhood. There was a shift in the light which seemed to cause all the shadows in the room to fall differently. There was nothing more definite than that, and yet, as often happens when some magic is occurring, both Drawlight and the lady had the strongest impression that nothing in the visible world could be relied upon any more. It was as if one might put out one’s hand to touch any thing in the room and discover it was no longer there. A tall mirror hung upon the wall above the sopha where the lady sat. It shewed a second great white moon in a second tall dark window and a second dim-mirror room. But Drawlight and the lady did not appear in the mirror room at all. Instead there was a kind of an indistinctness, which became a sort of shadow, which became the dark shape of someone coming towards them. From the path which this person took, it could clearly be seen that the mirror room was not like the original at all and that it was only by odd tricks of lighting and perspective – such as one might meet with in the theatre- that they appeared to be the same. It seemed that the mirror room was actually a long corridor. The hair and coat of the mysterious figure were stirred by a wind which could not be felt in their own room and though he walked briskly towards the glass which separated the two rooms, it was taking him some time to reach it. But finally he reached the glass and then there was a moment when his dark shape loomed very large behind it and his face was still in shadow. Susanna Clarke tells a story that spills over with wonder. This one is coming to the island with me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Most books are not for everyone, and it can occasionally be hard to determine from a cover, a blurb, a sample chapter if something will be for you or not. And even if you believe something is for you, the book still needs to reveal and unfold and delight and surprise and strike emotional chords and climax and conclude to your satisfaction by its end, all while also possessing a writing style you respond to or at least does not detract from your enjoyment. So its sometimes a wonder we like any bo Most books are not for everyone, and it can occasionally be hard to determine from a cover, a blurb, a sample chapter if something will be for you or not. And even if you believe something is for you, the book still needs to reveal and unfold and delight and surprise and strike emotional chords and climax and conclude to your satisfaction by its end, all while also possessing a writing style you respond to or at least does not detract from your enjoyment. So its sometimes a wonder we like any books at all when the stakes and standards are set so high. And Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell does not go out of its way to recommend itself to a new, uninitiated reader: its length both actual and perceived can certainly intimidate and inspire dread, the vast peppering of footnotes can be wearying, and the hybrid nature of its style and genre - an alternate history fantasy of early 19th century England written in a Dickensian-Austenian manner that is self-aware and sly, touching on style points like the Gothic and romantic novel and the Byronic hero, and plot points like war with Napoleon, Lord Byron, North-South England divides, the madness of King George III, relations between servants and their masters. Add to this of course magic, magic of a nebulous and free variety, no hard and fast system, not lots of smoke (though many mirrors), nothing too showy or special, a magic of an earthy, grounded, but still foreign, complicated, dangerous variety, complete with an entire history of magic in England from the 12th century and a whole host of anecdotes and tales and figures from said history that inform the present ideas, intentions and actions. All of these disparate forces and ideas and characters and influences joined together in one place, and meant to be read as one complete work, of over a thousand pages (in my edition, and perhaps understated considering there are two and three page footnotes worked in as well)? This truly is not a book for everyone. But if you read and were intrigued by my sprawling summary, and like reading things in a 19th century style or pastiche, and enjoy fantasy but don't need it to be as obvious or clear cut as modern fantasy novels typically show it, if you think it might be for you and are ready to commit to the novel's length and slow unfolding and building of events and ideas, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to pick up a paper copy, not least because the sheer number of footnotes would be highly aggravating to read in an e version, and settle yourself into bed or a large armchair or your sofa and begin. Because if Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell isn't for you, you'll be irritated or wearied by it and put it aside. But if it is for you, like it is for me, it is likely to vault amongst your most favorite, beloved books, something to re-read again and again, an old, familiar friend to turn to when new reads aren't hitting the mark as near as you'd like, and yet because of its depth and richness and length and detail, you'll find something new that strikes you every time. When this book is for you, despite my version ending on page 1006, I still crave more. More of charming and arrogant and a bit absent minded but intelligent Strange (though perhaps a bit less of the Norrell of most of the book but I am a biased Strangeite, I admit), more of Arabella, more of her fascinating anti-hero of Childermass, more of the soft Mr Segundus, more appearances of Lord Wellington (whose portrayal seems both accurate and inspired), more Stephen Black and much, much more of the Raven King and the magic of England. And I love Susanna Clarke's style, and her all-knowing narrator is filled with dry wit and humor in describing events and characters. For me the writing pulls the entire ambitious thing together, its craft and execution as important as the characters and plot for me. I know that most books you won't know until you read them if they are or aren't for you. And sometimes a book is not for you at one time, but then later is, or vice versa. But I have loved this book for over a decade, from my first, somewhat challenged read of it in 2004 when it was first published as a teenager, to now, and this is truly not a book I love from nostalgia, but for itself. I wouldn't even say it holds up well: even though I don't believe it to be perfect, I read it and am enthralled and amused and delighted and pensive every time, and though I do read it in a new light each time, I am always swept away by it. I probably read this once a year and have done so since it was first published, and can't see any reason why that would change in the future. I dearly hope Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is for you. If you think it may not be, or start it and don't quite connect, let it pass: it is too long and coiled and difficult to pin down to waste time or effort on it if you don't like it. If you read the whole thing and don't like it, I would love to hear your feedback. But if you've read it and know it's for you, then I'm so glad someone else loves this strange, unique, fantastic yet sober tale. And if you haven't yet read it but you think this may be for you, then I'm overjoyed and somewhat envious that you can encounter and discover this novel and its world for the first time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is Susanna Clarke's bestselling Fantasy History Novel. And it is amazing, astounding, supertastical, and brilliant. These are all just a handful of the real (and created) adjectives possible to throw at this tome. Were one to enter into an adjective war this book would defeat them hands down. For the potency of the words inside is incredible. And having done so would commence to bury  in a pile of prose so powerful that I would be diabolically destroyed. Jonathan S Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is Susanna Clarke's bestselling Fantasy History Novel. And it is amazing, astounding, supertastical, and brilliant. These are all just a handful of the real (and created) adjectives possible to throw at this tome. Were one to enter into an adjective war this book would defeat them hands down. For the potency of the words inside is incredible. And having done so would commence to bury  in a pile of prose so powerful that I would be diabolically destroyed. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a hauntingly beautiful book. It was well written with the careful and clear strokes of a master artist. A woman who clearly loves words and language and with abounding wit. An author who believed in her world with passion. She wasn't simply writing but creating a world with such clarity.  The remainder of this review has been moved to my website. You can read it right here at my Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Review. Postscript If you're looking for more books featuring magicians I'd also recommend: The Prestige and possibly The Night Circus though The Night Circus is a polarising book and should be picked up with that in mind. That said, The Night Circus is also a relatively easy novel to read compared with this and may appeal more to younger readers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julio Genao

    and the kitchen sink. simultaneously contemptuous and admiring of georgian culture and society, and possessed of many, many insights into the black heart of humankind, this book left me in a state of despair shot through with occasional palpitations of humor and excitement. on the whole, a vastly self-indulgent work—and as impressed with itself as we're meant to be. the footnotes, see... i love footnotes. but unlike, say, infinite jest, whose footnotes were by and large interesting and germane, the and the kitchen sink. simultaneously contemptuous and admiring of georgian culture and society, and possessed of many, many insights into the black heart of humankind, this book left me in a state of despair shot through with occasional palpitations of humor and excitement. on the whole, a vastly self-indulgent work—and as impressed with itself as we're meant to be. the footnotes, see... i love footnotes. but unlike, say, infinite jest, whose footnotes were by and large interesting and germane, these were most often completely useless and not at all worth the trouble of navigating to and fro within the ebook... when the links were working properly at all, of course. i get the sense that i was meant to enjoy, as goodreads reviewer paul bryant said, the fake scholarship of our omniscient narrator referring to books that d0 not exist, because that's wildly entertaining, i guess? and yet the writing here is, i felt, very good. it's just that the story—it wandered. to and fro, round england and onto the continent (three times), and then back again, somewhat aimlessly, as if by the vagaries of chance. it's a pantser's novel, i concluded halfway through; reading interviews with the author confirmed my suspicion: she'd just sorta begun and went wherever the hell her story took her. which. you know. at nearly 900 pages, with those bloody footnotes—well. it took her a hell of a lot of places, i can tell you. so i'm unhappy about the superficial structure of the thing; the indulgence of all the unnecessary foolishness and dead-end mini-stories in it; the sense that the hand at the tiller had no idea where this was all going and let's just all find out together, shall we? but. also. really good, really sharp observations on how people work, and what motivates them, and how they fuck themselves up. it's just that... it's really grim, too. bcuz humans are grim as fuck. so! where does that leave me and my review? i dunno. it is technically proficient, yet horribly excessive; it is beautifully rendered, but quite mercilessly features the brutal ugliness of the human spirit; it's terribly engaging, yet lasts for ever and ever and ends kinda abruptly. with footnotes, naturally. if two stars equals 'it was okay,' three equals 'i liked it,' and four equals 'i loved it,' how in the fuck many stars do you give a book you variously liked, loved, and thought was just okay? let's find out together.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scribble Orca

    I have quite some things to say and so little time in which to say these. And now we have the great year of Proust...it may be some time before these things are said, time being what it is, holidays being what they are, and my thoughts being scattered as usual. So perhaps it's best to attempt the following: Comparisons with Austen are appropriate for the social commentary and the (at times gently and perhaps not so gently snide) remarks the narrator makes about the actions of the characters. But t I have quite some things to say and so little time in which to say these. And now we have the great year of Proust...it may be some time before these things are said, time being what it is, holidays being what they are, and my thoughts being scattered as usual. So perhaps it's best to attempt the following: Comparisons with Austen are appropriate for the social commentary and the (at times gently and perhaps not so gently snide) remarks the narrator makes about the actions of the characters. But this is not Austenesque prose by any stretch of the imagination. There is an internal consistency to this book that makes it appear the author spent most of the ten years it took her to write the book in plotting - in fact, that wasn't the case, so even more impressive. Comparisons with Dickens are odd - perhaps my knowledge of Dickens is lacking but the only resemblance is in the sprawling nature Dickens employed and which has been executed to good effect in this book. With respect to the development of social disparity, Dickens was far more caustic. Was it really nearly 900 pages long? My goodness, I hardly noticed at all. Footnotes in a fiction book - well, really. How delightful. Brilliant asides which added depth and flavour without detracting or distracting from the story - it helped that I simply read the footnotes at the end of each chapter in the e-book version, of course. But still. To be savoured rather than spurned. The arbitrariness of the magic - well, yes. That was rather the point. Magic doesn't solve problems, particularly when it's been out of action for such a long time and its two lead proponents are two sides of the same coin (not quite Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but definitely ivory tower scholar and mad, experiential scientist) both blind to their lack of understanding of its capriciousness - not for nothing is one labelled Fearfulness and the other Arrogance. The villain - well, there wasn't. Actually, there was not one single (male) character (with the possible exception of the Hero (view spoiler)[Stephen Black (hide spoiler)] and Dr Greysteel) who did not display villainous tendencies of one or other inclination. The ladies remained virtuous and pure to the last (which was perhaps the only fault I would have with this book, a kind of inverted sexism if you will) and were a driving force for the action of the book because of their value as objects (sadly - but then, this is an historically accurate portrayal, therefore it would not be appropriate to have our 21st Century sensibilities criticising Regency ignorance/value systems). The setting - perfect. Just enough historical realism so that suspension of disbelief was never even an obvious factor in slipping into a world where odd occurrences had as much a surreal as a rational explanation. Accuracy and research of both English folklore and Regency England - could not be faulted. Natty little snippets included Lord Byron being jinxed and a footnote as to his later death. But the highest accolade I can pay this book - I was not aware I was reading it until I was (forcibly) interrupted and suddenly became aware of my own existence again. This book is that good.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    At page 246, I'm throwing the towel in on this one. It's not that it's bad, it's really not. I just can't seem to get excited about it, and after this many pages, I want to be more eager to pick it up. I'm just not interested enough to find out what happens in the next 500 pages or so. I have so many other books screaming for my attention. Now this book is classified as fantasy and I don't usually read this genre. That's not to say I have never enjoyed a fantasy novel - I have in fact enjoyed a At page 246, I'm throwing the towel in on this one. It's not that it's bad, it's really not. I just can't seem to get excited about it, and after this many pages, I want to be more eager to pick it up. I'm just not interested enough to find out what happens in the next 500 pages or so. I have so many other books screaming for my attention. Now this book is classified as fantasy and I don't usually read this genre. That's not to say I have never enjoyed a fantasy novel - I have in fact enjoyed a handful. In fact, The Hobbit is one of my favorite books of all time. I felt some real magic deep down while reading that book. The same is true for Mary Stewart's Merlin series, beginning with The Crystal Cave. I experienced a more meaningful connection with those books. It's just not happening here. Some may love it - don't discount this if you are at all interested. Keep in mind that the beloved Harry Potter series never attracted my attention either (although I have to admit that you are right, perhaps I don't know what I'm missing!) There is some great writing going on here, but I need something more to charm my little heart. I will refrain from rating this one since I didn't make it to the halfway mark.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    4 - 4.5 stars Fantastic story. One of the few that actually lives up to the hype. Be warned though: this is a loooong book and it is true that, from one point of view at least, it can be said that not too much happens in it. The title tells us what the two main sections of the book will cover: the lives of the last two true magicians in an alternate 19th century Britain. They are the bookish, annoying and altogether full of himself Mr. Norrell and the flighty, brilliant and altogether full of him 4 - 4.5 stars Fantastic story. One of the few that actually lives up to the hype. Be warned though: this is a loooong book and it is true that, from one point of view at least, it can be said that not too much happens in it. The title tells us what the two main sections of the book will cover: the lives of the last two true magicians in an alternate 19th century Britain. They are the bookish, annoying and altogether full of himself Mr. Norrell and the flighty, brilliant and altogether full of himself Jonathan Strange. What follows is a fantasy book as written by Jane Austen by way of Neil Gaiman. Of course it's much more, and better, than that trite description implies. Mr. Norrell is a man who wants to 'own' magic. At the beginning of the story he is the sole active practitioner of the Art which has up to that point devolved into a purely academic pursuit. He has seemingly made it his life's work to hoard every available resource on the Art in England and force every other so-called Magician to abjure their claim to its practice if they cannot meet his challenge. Jonathan Strange, on the other hand, is a young and carefree man of means flitting from interest to interest, unable to find any focus in his life. Until, that is, he discovers his unique talent for magic and ends up coming into direct contention with dour Mr. Norrell. The relationship that develops between these two characters is very interesting as Norrell, for his part, sees Strange as both his greatest adversary and, conversely, an apt pupil who is the only equal with whom the lonely old man can converse with any real pleasure or surprise. Strange finds Norrell infuriating and irritating in about equal measure, yet still seems drawn to the older man's knowledge. In the background of the story of these two magicians and the rebirth of English Magic in general (and fueling its movement forward), are two figures of legend: the puckish Gentleman with thistledown hair (a fae inadvertently brought to the human world via some ill-advised early magic by Norrell) and the enigmatic Raven King (a human named John Uskglass, the once and future magical high-king of Britain, a human adopted into Faerie in the Middle Ages). These two figures loom large in the story, the former explicitly as he attempts to meddle with the human world for his own mischievous ends (as the fae are wont), the other much more subtly as his influence is more felt than seen behind the entirety of English magic. The only great fault with the story is perhaps the fact that the two title characters, for all of their deeds and interactions, still sometimes seem to remain somewhat enigmatic cyphers in the background of their own stories. In many ways the secondary characters of John Childermass, Vinculus, and Stephen Black are more interesting than the protagonists. Despite this though, the story is well-told. It has a charming, archaic style that is thoroughly enjoyable which makes heavy use of academic footnotes, some of which are even more amusing and enlightening than the story on which they comment. Overall a great story and very immersive book that I highly recommend. Also posted at Shelf Inflicted

  26. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    I'd heard for a long time how amazing this book was, and I was decidedly unmoved by it. I did read the whole thing, and at 800 pages, that felt like an accomplishment. Clarke obviously put a lot of work into the back story, creating an entire historical library of magic that is cited in footnotes throughout. That kind of detailed work is, i suppose, admirable. However, I found the two main characters (rich white English men) boring. I couldn't bring myself to really care what happened to them, a I'd heard for a long time how amazing this book was, and I was decidedly unmoved by it. I did read the whole thing, and at 800 pages, that felt like an accomplishment. Clarke obviously put a lot of work into the back story, creating an entire historical library of magic that is cited in footnotes throughout. That kind of detailed work is, i suppose, admirable. However, I found the two main characters (rich white English men) boring. I couldn't bring myself to really care what happened to them, as the citations and historical aspect created a dry, dense read. I watched this video of Margaret Cho online where she hilariously bitches about how white people have to tell the same damn stories and history over and over and over again in the movies and how boring that is. That's what this book felt like. Same damn story. Boring.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Finis!! Oh how I hate to be finished...now I will have to find another book to fill the fantasy void. I really loved the experience of this book, the setting in an other England just a bit different than that of the history books, the language with its historical feel, the entire created world-view which Clarke completes with skilled use of footnotes set in that other world. This a tale of the return of magic to England and the rivalry of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It is epic in its scope, Finis!! Oh how I hate to be finished...now I will have to find another book to fill the fantasy void. I really loved the experience of this book, the setting in an other England just a bit different than that of the history books, the language with its historical feel, the entire created world-view which Clarke completes with skilled use of footnotes set in that other world. This a tale of the return of magic to England and the rivalry of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It is epic in its scope, covering many years in the early 19th century as well as delving into the magical past of the medieval and Renaissance times (largely in those footnotes). And I loved it all. There are enchantments, faeries, good and evil magic, good and evil humans, war and peace, kings, nobles, peasants, schemers, politicians, in short everything one needs to build a larger than life tale about larger than life men. And there is love and hate of course and much of the tale turns on these emotions. I will give no spoilers but I will say I found the final scene very emotional. Highly recommended to those who enjoy fantasy, especially with an historical fiction twist. 5*

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Let us start at the beginning, shall we? I've seen the Jane Austen comparisons, and for a while, that was the truest description of the book. Oh, you had your magic, but it was all very clean cut and bureaucratic and properly filed out in a mix of social gatherings and book references. All very English, is the closest I can get to a suitable description. And so I resigned myself to collecting witty quotes while perusing a charming yet not so remarkable tale of gentlemen magicians. Lucky for me, th Let us start at the beginning, shall we? I've seen the Jane Austen comparisons, and for a while, that was the truest description of the book. Oh, you had your magic, but it was all very clean cut and bureaucratic and properly filed out in a mix of social gatherings and book references. All very English, is the closest I can get to a suitable description. And so I resigned myself to collecting witty quotes while perusing a charming yet not so remarkable tale of gentlemen magicians. Lucky for me, things began to get interesting. The description encompassed by the single word 'English' slowly thinned to a much more vague phrase of 'English, beyond what the senses can comprehend'. Something that can readily be applied to every aspect of the novel. Don't put this in the same class as Harry Potter, just another alternate history that takes after the real world so much that you find yourself wishing it could replace boring reality with its magical self, its similarities to current circumstances ensuring minimal consequences. The footnotes guide you into that presumption with the ease of an extremely talented storyteller, as the author builds a story you feel you can completely trust and believe in. But that is only the surface of Clarke's skill, and the way she reflects the story's progression with the style of her writing is nothing short of incredible. For in this story, magic is real, raw, and writhing itself into a frenzy beneath the fragile skin of your world, and the ease of its use is only matched by the ease by which it consumes. Instead, be grateful for your mundane and solid existence, lest you find yourself snatched away to a flimsy plane, where the only thing morality has in common with physics is the insubstantial humanness they are based upon; something that falls apart so easily in the land of Fairy. Lest you join the myriad characters throughout the story, ones that for all their varied personalities and behaviors share the naive opinion that magic can be ordered and constrained and adapted to human use, all the while dancing to the whim and weave of the Raven King. For he is the only aspect of the novel that I put any stock into, and even that is probably a misguided attempt at keeping my balance. And, at the end, you have a seeming return to the balance of the beginning, a twist that puts you where you started, albeit with a new appreciation for subtlety and, I hope, a sense of wonder at the journey.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Clouds

    Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my HUGO WINNERS list. This is the reading list that follows the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I loved reading the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners so I'm going to crack on with the Hugo winners next (but only the post-1980 winners, I'll follow up with Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my HUGO WINNERS list. This is the reading list that follows the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I loved reading the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners so I'm going to crack on with the Hugo winners next (but only the post-1980 winners, I'll follow up with pre-1980 another time). First of all – if you haven’t already – please go and read Keely’s wonderfully tongue-in-cheek review of this book. It’s one of my top-ten GR reviews and makes me chuckle every time! Second, I thought this was a great quote from the blurb on the back of the book:“Clarke welcomes herself into an exalted company of British writers – not only, some might argue, Dickens and Austen, but also the fantasy legends Kenneth Grahame and George MacDonald – as well as contemporary writers like Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman.” – New York Times Book ReviewThis is a quite remarkable book – a true blend of diverse styles that creates something new. One of those books where I started to tell my friend that “It’s a bit like...” and then tailed off, waving my hand around, unable to locate the end of that sentence. It’s a bit like many things. It’s a bit like nothing I’ve read before! It’s a bit good (but that’s a bit of an understatement). Winner of the Hugo in 2005 (holding off one of my all-time favourites in Miéville’s Iron Council ), I can’t help but feel I should have read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell earlier than this – but I’m very pleased I’ve gotten around to it now. Let me get in my quick warning: it’s a slow burner. I think I turned to my wife at one point and said “I’m five hundred pages in and I think we’re getting to the good bit”. I have no probem with leisurely pacing, but not everyone has the patience for that kind of shenanigan. There are many things I enjoyed enormously, but here are my top three: The characters! Fantasy is not always renowned for multi-faceted, complex and believable characters, but the cast of JS&MN are varied and superb – Strange, Norrell, Childermass, Black, Drawlight, Lascelles, Wellington, Segundus and Honeyfoot are all sketched elegantly and convincingly. The female characters are less attention catching, Mrs Strange and Mrs Poole both fall victim to the evil fairy, but there’s enough shown of their individual natures before that to carry them. Nobody felt like a caricature, or cliché, or only there to fulfil a plot requirement, and there was a touch of Dickens’ flair for minor characters really owning their appearances. The magic! Magic in fantasy can take so many different forms and flavours. Clarke has managed to create a world where magic is dreamy and amazing, but also somehow gritty and grounded. My favourite example is the ship stuck on the sandbar. Strange makes magical horses out of the sandbar to help pull the ship free, and as they’re made of the sandbar itself they help float her free when they move. But getting the magic sand-horses tied to the ship is a nightmare and when they lie down to sleep and turn back into sandbar’s in new places the sailor are angry at the disruption to their maps! Magic is slippery and innately difficult to wield accurately. Consequences are often unintended. Being a magician is hard work! There’s no point-and-click reliability. The footnotes! A bit of a deal-breaker for some it seems. Clarke makes extensive use of footnotes to expand and illustrate the history of the story. I read every single one (and even flicked back to find old ones where required). For me, these footnotes really highlight the passion and labour that’s been put into this book. They’re brilliant! Some people apparently find them frustrating and boring (I just don’t get it). One of the ways I judge a book is by how much time you spend thinking about the book when you’re NOT reading it. I found my head drifting back to JS&MN many times, in many different ways. I found myself longing to pick it back up, just to feel the weight in my hand and let the pages flick past. I found myself imagining living in the world of the story, meeting the characters, strolling through their houses, going out on their campaigns. I found myself daydreaming about what else could have been done with the story, the places Clarke didn’t take the tale, the magic never done. I felt drawn to the book (and still do – I’ve got it next to me on the desk now, and I want to stroke it like a cat). It’s definitely a book that people connect with. The training manager at work interrupted a meeting to gush about the book when he spotted it sitting on my desk. Our shy office newbie, who had barely said a word all day, suddenly started chattering away when she noticed it. I’ve had more comments at work about this book than the last dozen added together! I have one complaint. I had a big issue with the ending. It made me feel: “What? No! You can’t just leave it like that! What happens next? Tell me more! Damn you, book, tell me more!” Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a very, very fine book and even more remarkable for being a debut. It’s not always easy to read for everyone – but it’s highly recommended. After this I read: Whispers Under Ground

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kat Hooper

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature. Let me say two things about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell: 1. This is one of the finest novels I have ever read. Ever. 2. You might hate it. Okay, let me say more. I listened to this book on audio and, because of the language and humor, I was delighted from the very start. I listened for 32 hours and approximately 25 of those hours are rather slow. Interesting stuff happens, but nothing that's going to put you on the edge of your seat. It's leisurely and ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature. Let me say two things about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell: 1. This is one of the finest novels I have ever read. Ever. 2. You might hate it. Okay, let me say more. I listened to this book on audio and, because of the language and humor, I was delighted from the very start. I listened for 32 hours and approximately 25 of those hours are rather slow. Interesting stuff happens, but nothing that's going to put you on the edge of your seat. It's leisurely and teasing. It's not clear how all of the characters and plots relate to each other. If you're ready for action, it's a bit frustrating. But the action finally does arrive and all of the characters and plots finally come together in an unexpected and satisfying way. Looking back, you realize that the plot was clever and quite tight all along. What kept me going was that the writing is absolutely glorious. Susanna Clarke writes like Charles Dickens or Jane Austen or one of those other 19th century English novelists who we love because of the insightful and subtly witty social commentary and the plain but elegant writing style. She's right up there with the best. In fact, I can't think of anyone who writes better than Susanna Clarke. Not Tolkien, not Le Guin, not Bujold. And for this reason, I must give the book 5 stars. It is a superb novel. Particularly fun were a few devices that I really enjoyed such as the intrusive narrator somewhat reminiscent of Thackeray's Vanity Fair, fictional characters interacting with real historical figures (Lord Byron was my favorite), and a few little alternate explanations of how some historical events in arts and literature came to be (I won't give you any examples because discovering them is the fun part). The audiobook is also superb. The reader, Simon Prebble, is English (in case you couldn't tell by his name), and his diction, pace, and voices are perfect. I love the voice he uses for the more uncouth characters -- it just sounds slimy. This was a great novel to listen to--Mr. Prebble's voices add to the dry humor--but keep in mind that it will take you 32 hours. It's quite a time investment, but well worth it. So, I recommend that you read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell when you have the time to be patient and when you're in the mood to be delighted by a long elegant English novel. If you're in a hurry, or if you're in the mood for quests, orphan boys, sword-fighting, or dragons, don't bother. This is the perfect book for the right reader. I can't wait to see what Susanna Clarke does next -- she's brilliant! Read more Susanna Clarke book reviews at Fantasy Literature .

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