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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell » User review

A miraculous crossover

  • Jun 22, 2010
Rating:
+5

Anyone who loves Harry Potter and Jane Austen alike will not only enjoy this novel, they will LOVE it. Susannah Clarke has created a magical world firmly rooted in actual history.

The novel takes place in England, 1806. The magic that was once prevalent throughout the country has dwindled to nothing, and it is generally accepted that whatever had existed of magic is now lost. The only magicians left are "theoretical magicians" - those who study magic, but do not perform it.

Enter Mr. Norrell, a reclusive, awkward, and arrogant magician, who can perform practical magic. Mr. Norrell becomes the toast of London society - until Jonathan Strange, a young, rebellious, hot-headed magician shows up.  Mr. Norrell is frightened by what Strange represents, but in the end, only Jonathan Strange can show Mr. Norrell the true nature of magic...and vice versa.

Despite the length of the book, it is a page-turner. 700 pages in a week is, I think, testimony to just how engaging it is. Most impressive, however, is the amazing depth of detail that Clarke has included to the magical world of Regency England. To say that she has rewritten history would not be an exaggeration. The book comes complete with footnotes regarding the history of magic in England - anecdotes, references, and clarifications. By the time you reach the second part of the book, you will be accepting John Uskglass as a real person, and recognizing the names and events which Clarke refers to. There is no unnecessary detail or description - spells just happen, and it is up to the reader to accept that what is occurring is as commonplace as a sneeze. If the reader is willing to do so, the effect of transportation to a parallel universe is breathtaking.

Add to all these facts Clarke's impeccable writing style - a wittier, more sarcastic Jane Austen - and you have a recipe for success. I freely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history and fantasy, and never thought they'd find a book that successfully combined both without sacrificing one or the other.

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More Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel... reviews
review by . June 16, 2010
   In Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke takes us to an England where magic is real and magicians exist in abundance. The only catch is that these magicians are scholars, not practitioners of the magic arts and none of them could cast a spell if they tried. Enter Jonathon Strange, a naive young man with the idea that he wants to become a great magician who actually practices magic. The following story is amazing in the level of detail and imagination Clarke uses to tell us …
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Never finished this - just seemed to drag on and on without much to keep my interest.
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
Hated it. The plot gets lost so easily and the author, while clearly a very good storyteller, has some issues with the dragging pace of the action. I tried Susanna Clarke, I really did.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
So unexpected and so incredible! I was barely five pages in before I knew this would be one of my favorites.
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
Something between J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen. I liked it.
About the reviewer
Betsy ()
Ranked #925
I'm a teacher from the upper Midwest who is obsessed with history and all things crafty.
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From Publishers Weekly

The drawing room social comedies of early 19th-century Britain are infused with the powerful forces of English folklore and fantasy in this extraordinary novel of two magicians who attempt to restore English magic in the age of Napoleon. In Clarke's world, gentlemen scholars pore over the magical history of England, which is dominated by the Raven King, a human who mastered magic from the lands of faerie. The study is purely theoretical until Mr. Norrell, a reclusive, mistrustful bookworm, reveals that he is capable of producing magic and becomes the toast of London society, while an impetuous young aristocrat named Jonathan Strange tumbles into the practice, too, and finds himself quickly mastering it. Though irritated by the reticent Norrell, Strange becomes the magician's first pupil, and the British government is soon using their skills. Mr. Strange serves under Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars (in a series of wonderful historical scenes), but afterward the younger magician finds himself unable to accept Norrell's restrictive views of magic's proper place and sets out to create a new age of magic by himself. Clarke manages to portray magic as both a believably complex and tedious labor, and an eerie world of signs and wonders where every object may have secret meaning. London politics and talking stones are portrayed with equal realism and seem indisputably part of the same England, as signs indicate that the Raven King may ...
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Books, Cafe Libri, Hugo Award Winner, Susanna Clarke

Details

ISBN-10: 0747570558
ISBN-13: 978-0747570554
Author: Susanna Clarke
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Date Published: August 26, 2004
Format: Hardback, Paperback
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