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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel by…

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel (original 2004; edition 2006)

by Susanna Clarke

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
21,86766992 (3.95)1 / 982
Title:Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel
Authors:Susanna Clarke
Info:Tor Books (2006), Mass Market Paperback, 1024 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke (Author) (2004)

  1. 361
    The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke (billiecat, celtic)
  2. 331
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman (GreenVelvet, GreenVelvet, GreenVelvet)
    GreenVelvet: Both Stardust and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell are detailed, well-written and riveting explorations of the world of fairie.
  3. 210
    Little, Big by John Crowley (VisibleGhost)
  4. 211
    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (-Eva-, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Magical rivalries are at the heart of these unconventional Fantasy novels, which play out over decades and against elaborate, atmospheric 19th-century backdrops. Their initially relaxed pacing gains momentum as the various narrative threads dramatically converge.… (more)
  5. 202
    The Book of Lost Things: A Novel by John Connolly (derelicious, jonathankws)
  6. 182
    The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany (billiecat)
    billiecat: Clarke's descriptions of Faerie share the dreamlike qualities of Dunsany's novel.
  7. 161
    Lud-in-the-mist by Hope Mirrlees (TheSpecialistsCat)
    TheSpecialistsCat: Both Clarke and Mirrlees lived briefly in Spain, then returned home to write about fairies and also, ostensibly, what it means to be English.
  8. 216
    Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (saltmanz)
    saltmanz: Both extrememly atmospheric books, with vivid visuals and memorable characters.
  9. 183
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (majkia)
    majkia: both books evoked the same sort of feeling for me.
  10. 185
    His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (Rodo)
  11. 185
    The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (clif_hiker)
  12. 131
    Sorcery and Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede (fyrefly98)
    fyrefly98: Both have the same "Jane-Austen-meets-Harry-Potter" vibe to them; "Jonathan Strange" is denser and more grown-up, while "Sorcery & Cecelia" is funnier and more of a romp.
  13. 176
    The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (ErlendSkjelten)
    ErlendSkjelten: I don't remember making this recommendation, much less why I did; they are very different books. I think I felt that they both conjured up the same mystic mood, and they are both concerned with a very British magic.
  14. 133
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (hiredman)
  15. 113
    The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (flissp)
  16. 70
    Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (jen.e.moore)
  17. 115
    The Prestige by Christopher Priest (Patangel)
  18. 60
    Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Aerrin99)
    Aerrin99: Books which focus on a fascinating historical Britain, but with added fun like magicians and more.
  19. 82
    Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (spiphany)
  20. 60
    The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox (Anonymous user)

(see all 57 recommendations)


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English (652)  French (5)  Japanese (2)  Italian (2)  Finnish (2)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  All languages (668)
Showing 1-5 of 652 (next | show all)
Four and a half stars, because I did truly enjoy it. It dragged a little in places, but it really wrung almost every passionate emotion out of me along the way. The plotting and characterization are both clever as all hell. ( )
  whatsmacksaid | Sep 21, 2018 |
Didn't finish, writing style didn't appeal to me at all, though this might be an issue with my language skills. ( )
  _rixx_ | Aug 30, 2018 |
There are a few questions you might ask yourself before you start Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, that I did not know to ask. The first is, do you like Magical Realism? For the most part, I do not. The second is, are you willing to devote the time you must give to the first half of this tome (the first half being rather difficult to endure) to get to the second half, which moves much faster and is fairly engrossing? If I could have the time back, my answer would be probably not. Ah, but then even Strange and Norrell could not give me back my time, I fear.

Perhaps the failing is in me when I read this kind of book, but I cannot find any deeper meaning in it. It is just a fantastic story, meant to entertain. A bit like watching a horror movie (another genre that fails to capture my imagination). I admit that once I got about halfway in, I would not have stopped reading. I needed to know what was going to happen and how this pair of magicians were going to disentangle themselves from the destruction they were courting. Like passing a car wreck that you would prefer to look away from but simply cannot. Sorry, I seem to be given to similes today.

I can see how someone who loves this genre would LOVE this book. The author is artful, the suspense is sustained, and the magic is magical. Not a case of the book not been well-written, just a case of the reader not been the proper audience. I have a book going right now that is set in Victorian England, minus the magic, and I am hoping it will bring me back to the real world that I prefer.
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Good concept, but a tough slog. Too long and just didn't draw me in. I struggled to finish, but felt compelled to since I had already invested so much time giving it the opportunity to entice me. ( )
  teenie-k | Jul 5, 2018 |
It’s not often I like a book’s narrator better than its characters. But that was my experience for much of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Clarke—or the persona she adopts to tell her story about the return of magic to early 19th century England—is whimsical and wry, frequently inserting herself into her tale with asides that begin with apologies like “It would tire my reader’s patience…” and “But in case you should imagine that this chapter will treat of none but disagreeable persons…” Her descriptions are similarly droll; my favorite was “the silence of half a hundred cats is a peculiar thing, like fifty individual silences all piled one on top of another.” She even censors her characters: at one point, Ned, a soldier who wants new boots, explains his need by saying “It is these d—d Portuguese roads.”

This charming style sustained my interest through the book’s meandering early stages, which start with the latest uncharitable act of Gilbert Norrell, an anxious little curmudgeon who’s spent much of his life ruining other practitioners of magic and appropriating their books on the subject. After the spells he uses to carry out his latest theft cause a sensation, Norrell capitalizes on his notoriety by moving to London and gaining employment with the government. Meanwhile, as Norrell’s station rises, Jonathan Strange, a heretofore hopeless dilettante, settles on magic as his true passion. Hearing of Norrell’s exploits, Strange seeks and secures the older man’s approval to become his first and only student.

Strange proves to be a prodigy, but he takes a leave of absence from his studies to help the (soon-to-be) Duke of Wellington fight through Portugal and Spain on his way to besting Napoleon. But this isn’t a Richard Sharpe novel; there are no blow-by-blow combat scenes or linear plot lines that drive us briskly from one bullet point on an outline to the next. Instead, Clark lights a cheerful little spark and lets it burn slowly where it will, with frequent stops for detours and digressions—until the last third of the book, when the story’s disparate threads reveal themselves to be fuses whose charges erupt simultaneously.

The change of pace was perfectly timed, recalling my attention as it started to wander. But even when I set the book down during some of the slower bits, I never doubted I’d pick it back up; Clarke’s stewardship was too amusing, too inventive, and ultimately too trustworthy—I always had faith she was shepherding me to a satisfying conclusion. And she did: in the end, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell proved itself worthy of the time it took to read. I just hope the forthcoming BBC adaptation retains some of Clarke’s character along with her characters.

(For more reviews like this one, see http://www.nickwisseman.com/) ( )
  nickwisseman | Jul 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 652 (next | show all)
Her deftly assumed faux-19th century point of view will beguile cynical adult readers into losing themselves in this entertaining and sophisticated fantasy.
Many charmed readers will feel, as I do, that Susanna Clarke has wasted neither her energies nor our many reading hours.
Susanna Clarke, who resides in Cambridge, England, has spent the past decade writing the 700-plus pages of this remarkable book. She's a great admirer of Charles Dickens and has produced a work every bit as enjoyable as The Pickwick Papers, with more than a touch of the early Anne Rice thrown in for good measure.
"Move over, little Harry. It’s time for some real magic."
A chimera of a novel that combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Aug 16, 2004)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clarke, SusannaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenberg, PortiaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Webb, WilliamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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He hardly ever spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson and no one could bear to listen to him.
In memory of my brother, Paul Frederick Gunn Clarke, 1961-2000
First words
Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians.
At sixteen she spoke -- not only French, Italian & German -- which are part of any lady's commonplace accomplishments -- but all the languages of the civilized (and uncivilized) world. She spoke the language of the Scottish Highlands (which is like singing). She spoke Basque, which is a language which rarely makes any impression upon the brains of any other race, so that a man may hear it as often and as long as he likes, but never afterwards be able to recall a single syllable of it. She even learnt the language of a strange country which, Signor Tosetti had been told, some people believed still existed, although no one in the world could say where it was. (The name of the country was Wales.)
It is also true that that his hair had a reddish tinge and, as everybody knows, no one with red hair can ever truly be said to be handsome.
"Soldiers, I am sorry to say, steal everything." He thought for a moment and then added, "Or at least ours do."
"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might," he admitted "but a gentleman never could."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Haiku summary
Two odd magicians
restore magic to England
and go kind of nuts. (marcusbrutus)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0765356155, Mass Market Paperback)

It's 1808 and that Corsican upstart Napoleon is battering the English army and navy. Enter Mr. Norrell, a fusty but ambitious scholar from the Yorkshire countryside and the first practical magician in hundreds of years. What better way to demonstrate his revival of British magic than to change the course of the Napoleonic wars? Susanna Clarke's ingenious first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, has the cleverness and lightness of touch of the Harry Potter series, but is less a fairy tale of good versus evil than a fantastic comedy of manners, complete with elaborate false footnotes, occasional period spellings, and a dense, lively mythology teeming beneath the narrative. Mr. Norrell moves to London to establish his influence in government circles, devising such powerful illusions as an 11-day blockade of French ports by English ships fabricated from rainwater. But however skillful his magic, his vanity provides an Achilles heel, and the differing ambitions of his more glamorous apprentice, Jonathan Strange, threaten to topple all that Mr. Norrell has achieved. A sparkling debut from Susanna Clarke--and it's not all fairy dust. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:06 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In nineteenth-century England, all is going well for rich, reclusive Mr Norell, who has regained some of the power of England's magicians from the past, until a rival magician, Jonathan Strange, appears and becomes Mr Norrell's pupil.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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