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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Here's my take: it's NOT Harry Potter. If you want a quick-paced book, with lots of action and easy-to-read prose, THIS IS NOT YOUR BOOK. Here's the test: If, by the end of the first chapter, you have not laughed out loud or even chuckled, YOU WILL PROBABLY NOT LIKE THIS BOOK. And that's perfectly OK - I hope I've saved you from buying it (nothing's worse, IMHO, than buying a book you end up hating).
I personally love this book - I'd easily rate it as one of the best books I've read in years. But I also love Jane Austen, Mervyn Peake and Lord Dunsany. To me, this book is both an homage to and a witty send-up of 19th century literature. But you have to like that kind of literature and "get" the jokes that the author is making (both in the style of the prose as well as the play on historical events) to really enjoy this book.
I want to make it clear that I think it's fine if people hate this book. However, I am troubled by comments that suggest it's a bad book. That's not true - it's simply a matter of preferences. For example, I happen to detest Dickens and like comic books. But I don't think that Dickens is an awful writer and comic book writers are superior to him - Dickens just isn't my style. So I'd emphasize that, in my opinion, Susanna Clarke is a phenomenal writer. But the pleasure of this book lies as much (if not more) in the way it's written as the events that take place - so if you're not interested in prose for its own sake, it'll be hard going.
To begin with, Strange is often referred to as a "fantasy" novel, an "adult" Harry Potter (ignoring Potter's self-obvious claim to millions of "adult" readers). If you're expecting fantasy in the form of Harry Potter magic (though done by bigger people employing bigger words) or Lord of the Rings-like quests and elves, be advised neither is here. Fantastical might be a better genre-word here than "fantasy". There is certainly magic here, both human and faerie (very different forms), but when one of the major storylines is how magic has gradually disappeared from England and when one of the major characters has as his purpose the destruction (not Black Tower hordes of evil monsters destruction but economic, social, or legal destruction) of those who would become magician, as you might imagine there isn't a lot of magic going on, at least not for the first few hundred pages. Those looking for a lot of wand-waving or fireball-flinging would best look elsewhere.
One of the signs of the book's maturity is that one can't really generalize too much about the magic in it. Magic is almost invisible in the beginning and near-constant toward the end. It is scholarly, bookish and tedious and also vigorous, physical and exciting. It is human and Faerie and a melding of the two. It is all-powerful (Spain complains about the rearrangement of several of their country's geographic landmarks) and ineffective (you can see visions in water but they seldom are helpful).Read more ›
. Unlike most of the better modern fantasy, this book is not a page-turner, and I mean that as a compliment; rather, it is a book to savor. Not that the plot isn't engaging - it is - but I frequently found myself comparing how many pages I'd read to how many I had left, deciding that I was burning through the book too quickly, and setting it down while I turned the passages I'd just read over in my head.
As befits a character-driven fantasy, almost all the characters are likeable, or at least understandable; even when they take larger-than-life action, they do so for incredibly human reasons. There are also a number of historical-character cameos, all of them well-drawn and believable..
I do not agree with Mr. Gaiman's statement that this is "the finest English novel of the fantasticke to appear in the past 70 years." Tolkien is better; his work has an epic grandeur that this book lacks, perhaps because Susanna Clarke so realistically and concretely evokes the precise historical era at which she aims : the imagination has a somewhat wider canvas to paint on when reading Tolkien or similar high fantasy, with more blank space to be filled in by the reader.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
So good oh man don't be discouraged by the size of the book because it flies by so quickly and at the end you'll find yourself wishing for more. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is a great book. This is a great story.
I was surprised by how this book turned out, because it was oddly - a love story. I concede I cheated reading this book. Read more
Absolutely incredible book. Clarke is an excellent writer and weaves an enjoyable, believable alternate history in this amazing volume. Read morePublished 19 days ago by The Frosty Hound
The most boring read I've attempted in a long Time. No doubt the author is a clever word smith, but the story takes forever to advance only slightly. Could not finish it.Published 21 days ago by Man4dog
This was one of the most enjoyable books/stories I have read.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
It was very interesting to read of our history in this other world and how she(the author)twisted it to form the backdrop of this story!Published 1 month ago by IBgready