Daily Archives: December 14, 2009

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Review

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I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell about 3 weeks ago and I’m still musing on what to say about it. Its a heavy book, (1006 pages in paperback and 800 in hardcover), but it is completely worth the time and effort.

Here is the back cover synopsis:

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England — until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

The summary doesn’t even cover half of what goes on in this novel. There are resurrections, enchantments, the man with the thistle-down hair, the conspiracy to overthrow the King and to bring dark magic back into the public realm.

As Susanna Clarke’s first novel, this book blew me away. A brief warning: Clarke is incredibly wordy, much like Charles Dickens and Honore de Balzac. This book definitely struck a chord with me, because it reminded me of why I love Victorian literature and classic literature so much more than contemporary works. There is a lot more thought and detail put into creating a fantastic new world with incredible characters.

Mr. Norrell is and old, fuddy-duddy Scrooge type of character. A miserly old man, unwilling to share any of his magic books with other pupils and unwilling to allow anyone else to practice the slightest hints of magic in London. Jonathan Strange is the perfect gentleman that any girl would want. All my friends in my book club had a big crush on him throughout the book. He is witty, intelligent, strong-willed and reckless at times. His relationship with his wife is amicable, although he becomes a bit neglectful the more he delves into the world of magic.

Susanna Clarke spent 10 years working on this book, and I really admire the time and dedication that she put into such a creative piece. You can really tell that the author cared for this book and all its characters, being meticulous with the details and storyline. I heard some talk that there might be a mini-series produced based on the book, but I have yet to see anything happen. I would love to see this book turned into a movie, it lends itself well to that media outlet. This book is also a fantastic winter read, because most of the setting is wet and dreary England. A great book for curling up on the couch at night with a cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket (or snuggie if you prefer).

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke
TOR, 2004
ISBN 0765356155
1006 pages


Find this book at your local library