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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Hardcover – August 26, 2004
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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
What a terrific waste of time! I found the plot dry and predictable. I feel like the rather surprising last few chapters were a reward for the endless barrage of useless characters... Read morePublished 1 day ago by C. Authement
This book is a real gem. I downloaded it onto the Kindle not knowing how HUGE it is (around 840 pages). Read morePublished 8 days ago by JennyAGoGo
Truly imaginative. Unlike the commonplace fantasy this is a rare novel, written in passion and joy. A modern classic which should be read.Published 23 days ago by David Liao
This is one of the best books I've read this year and I usually read a book per day. The language is clear, descriptive yet has a Victorian flavor (yes I know it's Regency England... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Moon Cat
This is one of my favorite books i've ever read. Why? This is the first fictional book i've read that treats itself like a historical account of real events. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Shine Game
A great book and the series is good too but of course abbreviated.Published 27 days ago by Toots Bauer
book almost too small to read....still a struggle to manage.Published 28 days ago by Amazon Customer
I liked reading the book and would by a sequel if one came out. The book's habit of moving from one set of characters to others who seemed almost irrelevant was at times... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Wayne Ysaguirre