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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by…

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel (2004)

by Susanna Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
20,86864470 (3.95)1 / 928
Recently added bystrange_analyst, private library, christinedux, DebbyeC, boogirl13, tifhayes, thisistasha
  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: A Novel by John Connolly (derelicious, jonathankws)
  5. 191
    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. 185
    The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (clif_hiker)
  10. 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.
  11. 185
    His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (Rodo)
  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. 103
    The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (flissp)
  16. 71
    Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (spiphany)
  17. 60
    The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox (Anonymous user)
  18. 105
    The Prestige by Christopher Priest (Patangel)
  19. 50
    Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (jen.e.moore)
  20. 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.

(see all 55 recommendations)


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English (630)  French (5)  Japanese (2)  Italian (2)  Finnish (2)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  All (644)
Showing 1-5 of 630 (next | show all)
Book on CD performed by Simon Prebble

From the book jacket: In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England--until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight. Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

My Reactions
Fantasy is really not my thing, but I did enjoy this book. I liked the play / counter play between the two magicians, and particularly enjoyed the scenes where they are influencing the Napoleonic Wars ... an armada of ghost ships made of rain! Or moving an entire city to the United States! I also really liked the subplot involving Stephen.

I thought Clarke did a fine job of creating this magical world, peopled with a host of interesting characters. Her writing is very atmospheric and I could almost hear the eerie strains of music at a ball, or the caw of ravens.

That being said, however, this was just way too long. I found my mind wandering as much as the plot did. And by hour 29 (out of 36 hours of audio) I was ready for it to culminate.

I certainly understand the popularity of the novel, but as I said at the beginning, it's really not my thing, and I wouldn't go out of my way to read another novel by Clarke.

I listened to the audio ... I think I would listen to Simon Prebble read his grocery list! He does a marvelous job. 5***** for his performance. ( )
  BookConcierge | Apr 10, 2017 |
Every once in a while I chance upon a book that I wish would never end. At 700+ pages, some might be forgiven for thinking this never *would* end. Some stories, however, require sufficient time and space to spread themselves out, and this is just such a tale.

The premise of this “alternate reality” text is that magic once existed in Britain: that in millennia gone by, a human boy raised by fairies, John Uskglass, ruled over the northern portions of Britain and worked in tandem with lesser wizards and the island’s human kings to protect and secure its boundaries. Over time, however, Usglass has disappeared and magic become a thing to be studied by scholars rather than actually practiced.

Fast-forward to 1806 where, in the expansive library of an ancient old house in even more ancient York, a rather peevish little scholar named Mr. Norrell has rediscovered the art of practical magic. Alas, his jealous nature seems destined to assure that no one else will ever replicate his feats … until a scattered but likeable young gentleman, Jonathan Strange, discovers himself to possess similar powers. Much of the rest of the novel derives its suspense from the growing conflict between their fundamentally different approaches toward magic: Norrell’s scholarly approach vs. Strange’s organic approach. Which path promises to lead to the ultimate goal: the re-establishment of British magic? (Before you ask – yes, this works as a metaphor for all sorts of things, including British history writ large, which has always been about the precarious balance between the rule of law and the individualism of its people.)

This conflict is captured in the form of a more literal plotline, in which Norrell inadvertently summons a faerie, “The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair,” who proceeds to engage in all sorts of complicating amorality, first taking captive the wife of a British minister (Lady Pole), then this gentleman’s African-American slave (Stephen), and finally Strange’s own wife Arabella. Strange’s efforts to free his wife entangle him in a magic feud that alters Britain forever.

But of course there’s so much more going on here than can be captured in so simple a summary. For, much like a stroll along the King’s Roads (magical roads that run between mirrors), this seemingly simple tale is always wandering off in unexpected directions, presenting us here with gently satirical portraits of British society (a la Austen) and then there with portraits of the ghastliness of war (a la Tolstoy); here with whimsical, entirely invented magical anecdotes from British history (a la T.H. White), and then there with sudden cameos by actual historical giants – The Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, King George III (a la George MacDonald); here with themes and symbols evocative of genuine mythology (a la Tolkein), and then there with subtle asides that later reveal themselves as powerfully illuminating metaphors (Tolkein again). All wrapped up in Clarke’s deft prose and wonderfully evocative descriptions, especially of the increasingly transparent boundary between the real world and the world of faerie.

Simultaneously witty and yet dark, whimsical yet sober, gentle yet brutal, simple yet nuanced, imaginative and yet grounded in authentic history and mythology, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one of those works of imagination that seem, on occasion, to emerge fully-formed from our collective imagination to become the ur-text of genres to come. A little rushed at the end (seriously, if you’re already 700 pages invested, what’s another 300 pages to do the thing right?), but, taken as a whole, a magnificent and magnificently original work of imaginative fiction. ( )
5 vote Dorritt | Apr 8, 2017 |
Such charming prose! Such a long book!

I couldn't help but love it. Turns of phrase of such dry British wit sparkle on every page. Whole passages practically flutter off the page with truly credible whimsy and warmth. The real magic in this story of magicians is in the prose. But by god it's long. Way too long. The plot sputters and konks out several times over. Kinda who cares because it's nice that this safe, charming experience goes on and on, but it sure keeps the book from realizing its potential. Suzanna Clarke has found her world but not her story? There's also a deep love of Britishness that is at times endearing and at times scary. The whole book seems to be about the nature of England, and England's true soul seems to involve almost Christ-high levels of import and supernatural what not. It's a real love song but with a super curious absense of anything remotely PG. That should tell you how charming the prose can be because nearly 800 pages without some adult theme-age is 785 pages too many. She can see the magic so well it must be there. Too bad about its chasteness.
  wordlikeabell | Apr 8, 2017 |
This is the sort of book that seems like it could only exist in your imagination, but which one day appeared on the bookshelves of shops and libraries with no introduction, yet acted as if it had been there all along. I found the cover and spine so striking and the title suggested so much and nothing at all to me. In 2006 I actually got 600 pages in but stopped reading for reasons that had nothing to do with the story. (I had stopped reading altogether.) Though my sister's book, it sat on my shelf for eight years, and last week I finally picked it up again and it was largely new to me (certain scenarios had been forgotten--I can't describe how anxious I was to know what the gentleman with the thistle-down hair took from Lady Pole), and my appreciation is yet higher than what it was when I was sixteen. I've read more Jane Austen and been more immersed in the world of fusty scholarship and spent a ridiculous amount of my time in grad school thinking about masculinity and Englishness and what they are (or, more precisely, aren't).

There's so much to adore in this book. Morally ambiguous characters who really aren't as important or talented as they believe they are. The personal-dislike-meets-obsession that Norrell and Strange have for each other. The fact that so much time passes between events, even when the events are ultimately connected. The fact that it takes our protagonists so long to work out what is going on. How ordinary magic becomes to civilians and politicians in London. And, as much as anything, the craft of Clarke's writing, which is really a marvel and continually blew me away.

I know that it can't be recommended to everyone because you've got to be a patient reader, but I kept reading a hundred pages at a time and couldn't put it down or think of anything else during the entire period I read it. I kept doubting that this book really existed because it was precisely everything I wanted and that is never otherwise allowed to happen. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Ooof, I loved this one. The story was excellent, the characters were fabulously drawn (even the one I loved to hate, I felt kindly toward in the end), and although quite chunky, I was still so sad to see it end. A bit in love with Jonathan Strange, now, of course, and not ashamed to admit it. I highly recommend this one. ( )
  electrascaife | Feb 28, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 630 (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
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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.

» see all 8 descriptions

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