Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
2004, 782 pp.
2005 Hugo Award
2005 World Fantasy Award
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.