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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Paperback – January 1, 2005
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- Publisher : Bloomsbury USA; Edition Unstated (January 1, 2005)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 800 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1582346038
- ISBN-13 : 978-1582346038
- Item Weight : 1.7 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 2.3 x 8.2 inches
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
Top reviews from the United States
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I've read a lot of reviews of the kindle version of this book stating that it is boring, (as if it were a fact.) Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but to flat out say it's boring is an insult to what I consider to be a masterpiece. “Not my cup of tea” would be the better thing to say. For me, it was a page turner, and I actually wish it were longer. I'm inclined to think that if it were infinitely long, I'd just keep on reading and reading!
Why do I love this book so much? The writing, for one thing. It's beautiful, and I just love the way the author described things. I almost laughed out loud at some of the comic descriptions of characters, but other times the descriptions were just plain creepy or haunting.
The plot was also very interesting to me. The characters are fully fleshed out, and I came to feel as if I knew them. A lot of the book is spent describing things and on conversations between characters, without a lot actually happening, per sey, but to me, it just never got boring. Most of the actual action happens near the end. It's not a thriller, but to me, it's infinitely better. And no, this is not “Harry Potter for grown ups.” I personally prefer it to Harry Potter, but if it's two magicians flinging fireballs at each other you're looking for, this isn't it. The magic tends to be things like walking through mirrors, making it rain, and conjuring up visions.
Like I said, everyone's entitled to their opinions. This is mine. In short, this is a wonderfully well written book that is sometimes creepy, sometimes comic, and sometimes serious. It's not for someone with a short attention span. The length never bothered me, but if you're willing to commit, it honestly doesn't take that long to read. I have already HIGHLY recommended this book to some of my friends, and over the years, I will go back and read it over and over again.
That is a very rough description of a 1000 page book. Truthfully, there’s a whole lot more going on but to say too much would be leading me into giving away spoilers.
As already mentioned, this is a very long book. In fact, it’s divided into three books, each named after the important magicians in the story (Strange, Norrell, and the long ago Raven King). A warning here – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is slowly paced and slow burning. The action and pace don’t pick up until the climax in the last hundred pages or so.
So why, might you ask, would I read a book with 900 pages of build up? Because that build up is so enjoyable. Susanna Clarke is an excellent writer (she’s using the style of classic nineteenth century authors), and her writing is not without humor. I was not at all expecting it, but often I would laugh out load upon reading a line. Take this quote for instance:
“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.”
I love the footnotes as well. Sometimes they’re just explaining a reference to a magical text, but often they are stories within a story, like the fairy tale about the Master of Nottingham’s daughter and her quest to retrieve the magic ring. Other times she uses footnotes (as well as in text commentary) to skewer the prejudices of the age. There’s a certain irony in that Strange and Norrell are acceptable magicians because they are gentlemen, even though others such as Childermass would probably make just as good or better magicians.
If you pick this one up, you’ve got to have at least some interest in history or a liking of classic English writing like Jane Austin. If you’re looking for the usual action adventure, medieval world type fantasy, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is not for you. If you’re looking for something different, an original fantasy book, than this is the book for you.
Top reviews from other countries
If you have the patience, or are a fan of 18th and 19th century fiction, then buy it! Buy it now! It's fabulous. There's a rich fictional history that is slowly exposed through footnotes, alongside a story of two deeply flawed men, each blundering along a magical path they believe they understand, but which is utterly obscured from their view. There are no obvious heroes or villains here. No clearcut moral values. Mistakes are made and consequences felt.
It's rare I'll read a book that has me exclaiming aloud at the actions of a character, knowing that it will cause mayhem and yet having only the dimmest notion what the consequences will be. It's even rarer to read something where I truly don't know where it's going. There's no wellworn literary path here, no tired story tropes.
Without saying too much and spoiling it I don't know what else to say. Just buy it. Do it now.
The book goes on and on, at some point I wondered if each new layer of the cake was being piled on to avoid considering what the characters introduced in the previous layer were actually about. I kept reading because I was interested enough to see how it would work out, but it felt like the author was adding ever more complexities as a way of avoiding the messy human stuff.
And there was just too much hopping around, Mr Strange goes from being a sceptical layabout to a highly competent magician without apparently taking a breath, the author never drops her amused detachment. Her characterisation of the Duke of Wellington and other figures of the Peninsular War was deft and amusing but Bernard Cornwell could make those figures come to life, as bit part players, with equal economy but far greater emotional value.
It's a shame. I really wanted to like it.