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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna…

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (edition 2009)

by Susanna Clarke, Neil Gaiman (Introduction)

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20,10860679 (3.95)1 / 877
Title:Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Authors:Susanna Clarke
Other authors:Neil Gaiman (Introduction)
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 864 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

  1. 351
    The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke (billiecat, celtic)
  2. 311
    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. 200
    Little, Big by John Crowley (VisibleGhost)
  4. 202
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (derelicious, jonathankws)
  5. 170
    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)
  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. 183
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (majkia)
    majkia: both books evoked the same sort of feeling for me.
  8. 206
    Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (saltmanz)
    saltmanz: Both extrememly atmospheric books, with vivid visuals and memorable characters.
  9. 141
    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.
  10. 185
    The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (clif_hiker)
  11. 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.
  12. 175
    His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1) by Naomi Novik (Rodo)
  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. 123
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (hiredman)
  15. 103
    The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (flissp)
  16. 60
    The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox (Anonymous user)
  17. 71
    Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (spiphany)
  18. 105
    The Prestige by Christopher Priest (Patangel)
  19. 61
    Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (nnicole, Jannes)
    nnicole: Magic during the English Regency.
    Jannes: Evokes the same sort of magic in a historical setting (is that a genre yet?) without straying too far inot fantasy/alt-history territory.
  20. 50
    Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Aerrin99)
    Aerrin99: Books which focus on a fascinating historical Britain, but with added fun like magicians and more.

(see all 51 recommendations)


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English (592)  French (5)  Japanese (2)  Italian (2)  Finnish (2)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  All languages (606)
Showing 1-5 of 592 (next | show all)
I have a very clear memory of visiting a bookshop, a good few years ago. I had a birthday book token, and I wasn’t too sure what I might buy. I saw a display of thick hardback books, some with black covers and some with white covers. I was intrigued by the title, and when I picked one of those copies to see what it was all about I was smitten.

That was how my first copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell came home.

It was quite a few years before I read the book and I had quite a few false starts before I read it all the way through. It wasn’t that I didn’t love it – I loved it from the start – but it was such a big book, I so wanted to linger, and I kept getting distracted, by life and by other books.

I finally read the whole book last year, when I realised that I could count three volumes as three novels; and that I didn’t need to dawdle, because if I loved the book as much as I thought I would I’d be going back to read it again and again.

I did love it that much; and maybe more.

What did I love?

I loved that though this very big book, divided into three volumes, looks so much like a take on a Victorian novel, it is set somewhat earlier, during the Napoleonic Wars. And while I have seen it suggested that the style echoes some wonderful authors – Austen, Trollope and Dickens are the names I have seen most often – and while I can see all of those influences, none of them dominate. The style suits the period, suits the story, and it is the style of a storyteller with a keen eye, a gentle wit, and perfect control of her material.

The story began in an England where magic had died after the disappearance of its greatest magician, The Raven King, who had come out of the Land of Faerie to reign in the north. Magic was a dry academic subject, not a practical art.

One man asked why that was, and events that the Raven King had prophesised began to unfold:

"Two magicians shall appear in England.
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me;
The first shall be governed by thieves and murderers; the second shall conspire at his own destruction;
The first shall bury his heart in a dark wood beneath the snow, yet still feel its ache;
The second shall see his dearest possession in his enemy’s hand.
The first shall pass his life alone; he shall be his own gaoler;
The second shall tread lonely roads, the storm above his head, seeking a dark tower upon a high hillside.
I sit upon a black throne in the shadows but they shall not see me.
The rain shall make a door for me and I shall pass through it;
The stones shall make a throne for me and I shall sit upon it.
The nameless slave shall wear a silver crown,
The nameless slave shall be a king in a strange country."

I love that the world of this book is so very alive, that it is a very real England, overlaid with the history and presence of magic. The detail is wonderful, and the love that Susanna Clarke, the architect of that world has for it shines from the pages.

I loved that the prophecy played out in the story, and that even though I had ideas about what was going to happen I never really knew, and that what did happen was exactly right.

I loved that such a wonderful array of characters from that world were presented to me, and that they were so very well drawn with just a few simple strokes. Each and every one had a part to play, and there is no one I won’t be glad to see come to the fore.

It’s difficult to pick favourites, but I was always pleased to see Mr Segundus, who asked that important question; I was fascinated, and moved, by what happened to Emma, Lady Pole; I was intrigued by the mysterious Mr Childermas, Mr Norrell’s man of business …. that reminds me that I am very taken with the names, which are distinctive without being gimmicky, and fitting without ever feeling contrived.

I particularly loved the characters and the relationship of Mr Norrell and Mr Strange, and that even thought their differing natures and view about the history and restoration of magic in England drove them apart, their love of magic pulled them together.

I loved the magic, that has been so beautifully woven into real history and that is so nicely understated. The set pieces are wonderful. There’s a wonderful early scene in York Minster that might be one of my favourite scenes in any book, ever. And I was so impressed with the part that Jonathan Strange had to play in the Napoleonic War, alongside the Duke of Wellington, that I found myself wishing he would appear when I was reading a certain classic with interminable scenes set during that same conflict.

I was delighted that nearly all of the magic drew on the natural world. It would have been easy to overplay the magic, but that didn’t happen. This was always a human story set in a real world where magic just happened to have a part to play.

I loved that end of the story echoed the beginning, and that the seeds of that ending were sown very quietly, and very early in the story. And I loved that though the ending was an ending, it might also be the start of something else.

Most of all, I loved that even though the book wasn’t quite perfect, that there were one or two sequences that dragged, it didn’t matter, that I still loved the book as a whole. Because the idea was so wonderful, because its execution was so clever, and because everything came together and worked quite perfectly.

I didn’t want to leave that world, I wanted to know what was happening around the stories when interesting characters were offstage, I wanted to know what had happened before, what would happen afterward, and I so wanted to be part of it all.

I found a book that spoke to both my childish love of a magical world and my grown up love of period fiction. ( )
3 vote BeyondEdenRock | May 17, 2016 |
I only made it through the first volume. I got super bored. It's not a poorly written book, it just has pacing issues. I can't recommend it, but I can see how a few people might like it. ( )
  ladonna37 | May 15, 2016 |
Mr. Norrell attempts to restore English magic, which hasn't been practiced in centuries.

Take Austen, add a liberal dose of faerie and historical fiction about the Napoleonic Wars, and you have this book. The incredibly long story arc with its various diversions would be wearing if not for the skewering humor. Clarke doesn't hold back from ridiculing her characters - the good ones take it in stride (e.g. Jonathan Strange's admitted inability to follow a conversation not about magic, even with his wife), and the villains become more villainous.

The alternate universe in this book, one in which magic and faeries were well-known in a certain historical period, is extensively described. I loved the footnotes, which are reminiscent of O'Brien's Third Policeman in their absurd and intricate detail. ( )
  bexaplex | Apr 16, 2016 |
I kept wanting to read this but found it hard to get into it. I am still having good and bad moments with it, but am not far enough in to decide yet. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
This book is authentic for the period it proposes to imitate in at least one way: it reads like Clarke was paid by the word.

There was a lot to like in the book. Some of her turns of phrase are wonderful. I liked Arabella, Stephen, and Lady Pole. Mostly I liked Jonathan Strange. Childermass too. It was enjoyable enough, and I'm glad I read it to the end.

But the pacing. AUGH, the pacing. It was TERRIBLE. I read the book in the three-volume edition. Nothing happened in the second book until the last thirty pages. Not a single thing worth noting. This book could easily have been condensed into 500-550 pages without losing anything of any worth. Length isn't generally an issue for me (heh) - in fact, I do love a good long book, because I always tend to want MORE - but this was stretched. And the irritating thing is, plenty of different routes could have been taken to fill up that space. As someone else mentioned, I wanted to know more about Norrell. Without knowing more, he's just a malicious git. Strange could have used some more filling out too - why do we only meet him 270 odd pages into it?

The end felt... convoluted. I don't want to say too much, but it seemed rushed, and with the middle of the book dragging so much, it made no sense to suddenly go BAM! ENDING!

Overall, if you have some spare time and get a chance to read this, I would. It's a decent faux-Victorian study of a relationship between two vastly different men, with some commendable pieces of writing, and some intriguing moments, but ultimately, I wouldn't strongly recommend it.
( )
  thebookmagpie | Mar 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 592 (next | show all)
"Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" has been celebrated as an adult Harry Potter story, but it is more like a flatter and flabbier one. Chapters end with no cliff-hanging urgency, and the book is studded with unremarkable remarks. ...

Somehow, the gargantuan battle for the future of English magic does not become a matter of enormous consequence. But it does become the basis for a brand new fantasy world, an intricate and fully imagined universe of bewitching tricks. Maybe that's enough.
added by Aerrin99 | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Sep 14, 2004)
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."

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susanna Clarkeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenberg, PortiaIllustratorsecondary 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."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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 8 descriptions

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