Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

2004, 782 pp.

2005 Hugo Award
2005 World Fantasy Award

Rating: 4.5

I chose this book as one of my 5 Once Upon a Time Challenge books because I also had it on my TBR Challenge and my Chunkster Challenge list. Because the hardback is almost 800 pages, I think it qualifies for 3 challenges! I thought surely I would be able to complete the book if it were on *3* of my lists. When I started it, I honestly didn't like it much at first. It took about 80 pages before I was "into it", and then I was hooked. The next 700+ pages were very easy to read.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are two English magicians who collaborate at first but then find they have very different philosophies of how magic should be viewed and performed. Mr. Norrell wants to be the foremost authority of magic and keep Strange under his tutelage. Jonathan Strange realizes he is just as good a magician as Norrell and is much more open to teaching anyone his art. This battle of wills frames the story, but there is also romance, a tiny bit of comedy, and history interwoven into the story as well. Napolean, Duke Wellington, and Lord Byron make small appearances as do a gentleman with thistle-down hair and a magician called The Raven King. I won't tell much of the plot here because I wouldn't want to spoil the story for those who haven't read it yet! I will say that the ending hints that there might be more books to follow.

The book is written in the style of a Victorian novel. There is no bad language and not much, though a little, violence. The violence that is present reminded me a little of Edgar Allen Poe's stories. I was worried about what the book would contain when I started it, but the content was mostly accepable to me. I'm a little more conservative than most readers, so this concerned me a little. The only objection I do have is that there are a few places in the book that are a bit condescending to the Church and religion. It wasn't enough for me to downgrade the book's rating, though, and I'm very glad I read it. It looks like there will be a movie in 2008, and I will really look forward to seeing that as well.


Marg said...

I bought this book the first day I saw it in the shops....and haven't even read one page of it yet! Sounds as though you really enjoyed it! Maybe I can fit it in sometime soon.

Chris said...

I loved this book. Same as you, took me a few pages to get into it, but I was hooked once I did. She is indeed going to do a sequel, though she said that Strange and Norrell will likely not be major characters in the sequel and it will take place a few years in the future. Great review. I'm looking forward to the movie as well!

Matt said...

Most everyone that has read this seems to feel it was a bit difficult to get into at first. I had that reaction too. But by the end I really enjoyed it.

I had no idea she was going to do a sequel.

Literary Feline said...

I am glad you enjoyed this one. It got off to a slow start for me too, I admit. My husband absolutely loved it from the first page though. I think it was his favorite book of the year the year we read it. :-)

Melanie said...

I loved this book too. The slow rhythm of the Victorian-ish prose really appealed to me. And I enjoyed the characters; didn't know there was to be a movie or a sequel, so thanks for that tip!

Bookfool said...

I'm a conservative reader, too, so it's nice to know you didn't find anything too offensive. I don't have a copy of this one, so it'll be a long time before I get to it, but I'm looking forward to reading it, some day.

Kailana said...

I have had this book on my nighstand so many times and STILL I haven't read it. It's sad really, something just always seems to get in my way!