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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004)

by Susanna Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
23,30169299 (3.95)1 / 1046
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.
  1. 381
    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. 220
    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 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. 183
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (majkia)
    majkia: both books evoked the same sort of feeling for me.
  8. 216
    Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (saltmanz)
    saltmanz: Both extrememly atmospheric books, with vivid visuals and memorable characters.
  9. 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.
  10. 185
    His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (Rodo)
  11. 185
    The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (clif_hiker)
  12. 186
    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.
  13. 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.
  14. 133
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (hiredman)
  15. 90
    Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (jen.e.moore)
  16. 123
    The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (flissp)
  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 60 recommendations)

To Read (12)
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English (672)  French (5)  Japanese (2)  Italian (2)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (2)  All languages (689)
Showing 1-5 of 672 (next | show all)
_Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_ falls under the obscure category of realistic historical fantasy. It's probably the best-known and best example of the subgenre. I use the term to mean a story which is set in a period which is mostly consistent with history, except for added fantastic elements. My own _The Magic Battery_ is a more obscure example, and Susanna Clarke's novel significantly influenced it. I realized this when I reread it in 2020. My first reading of it was so long ago I'd forgotten most of it. It's still as enjoyable as it was then.

A problem in realistic historical fantasy is making the lack of historical divergence plausible. Shouldn't a world where people can do magic be very different from ours? Clarke handles this by positing that no one has performed any magic in England for centuries. Medival history was significantly different, but the worlds have converged since then. The Duke of Wellington, George III, and Lord Byron play significant roles, and they're very close to their real-life counterparts.

The book may seem intimidating at first. It's over 800 pages long, and it's written in the style of the early 19th century, with period spellings. But I found it a fairly quick read for its length. The number of characters isn't overwhelming, and the plot isn't too complex. Much of the interest lies in the characters and the atmosphere.

The two main characters are the ones in the title. They're the first practicing magicians in England in centuries, but they're opposites in personality. Norrell is a control freak, determined to single-handedly direct the revival of English magic. He isn't at all sociable. Strange is more pleasant, and he travels around Europe while Norrell stays shut up in his home.

Early in the novel, Norrell reluctantly consents to raise a woman from the dead. That kind of magic has a high cost in any fantasy story, and in this one it sets events in motion that threaten the fate of Britain.

The novel was a huge success when it first came out, and it still stands up well. I recommend it to anyone interested in both history and fantasy. ( )
2 vote GaryMcGath | Jul 11, 2020 |
Fantastic. ( )
  AldusManutius | Jul 5, 2020 |
Took me forever to read, but a VERY clever masterpiece ( )
  Gardenruth | Jul 4, 2020 |
  slick_schick | Jun 16, 2020 |
Re-read, 11/11/18:

The only real review for this book is one that fully experiences it from the inside. In other words, take the roads, listen to the rocks, and above all, DON'T TRUST THE FARIES.

This was a classic when I first read it and it's just as good on any re-read. That's why I put this in my top-100 list. :) It will stand the test of time.

Let's fight with Wellington and defeat Napoleon with magic! Let's get into major trouble, get majorly paranoid, and do it with arrogance and style!

Above all, this is a buddy novel that starts really rocky, continues worse, ends in mistrust, and yet, is quintessentially English. In other words, polite and often uplifting. :)

Brilliant book. I think it will always be. :) ( )
1 vote bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 672 (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 (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susanna Clarkeprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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Epigraph
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.
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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."
It may be laid down as a general rule that if a man begins to sing, no one will take any notice of his song except his fellow human beings. This is true even if his song is surpassingly beautiful. Other men may be in raptures at his skill, but the rest of creation is, by and large, unmoved. Perhaps a cat or a dog may look at him; his horse, if it is an exceptionally intelligent beast, may pause in cropping the grass, but that is the extent of it. But when the fairy sang, the whole world listened to him. Stephen felt clouds pause in their passing; he felt sleeping hills shift and murmur; he felt cold mists dance. He understood for the first time that the world is not dumb at all, but merely waiting for someone to speak to it in a language it understands. In the fairy's song the earth recognized the names by which it called itself.
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Book description
Haiku summary
Two odd magicians
restore magic to England
and go kind of nuts.
(marcusbrutus)
Don't ever make a
deal with a faerie – it will
not end well for you.
(passion4reading)

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