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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Paperback – 5 Sep 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (5 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747579881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747579885
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (430 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Any book touted as the ‘adult Harry Potter’ runs the risk of attracting critical parries from swords of the double-edged variety. If this wasn’t enough, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell--the debut novel from Susanna Clarke--also invites comparisons with Jane Austen. Set in the early nineteenth-century, the action moves from genteel drawing rooms—albeit where a mischievous Faerie king sips tea with the wife of a very human government minister, to the bloody battleground of Waterloo, where giant hands of earth drag men to their doom. The juxtaposition of perfectly realised magical worlds and the everyday one with which JK Rowling and Philip Pullman so successfully captured our imaginations and the social comedy of Austen and Thackeray can easily be recognised. But less easy to pastiche is the ability of these writers to induce sheer narrative pleasure, and it is Clarke’s great achievement that she succeeds with this hugely enjoyable read. Gilbert Norrell is determined to single-handedly rehabilitate his sanitised and patriotic version of English magic, which has suffered a post-Enlightenment neglect after a richly dark history. He ruthlessly secures his place as England’s only magician in two marvellously drawn feats. First, he brings the statutes of York Cathedral to life and then, to facilitate his entry into London society, he brings a young bride-to-be back from the dead--a feat with terrible consequences. However, another more naturally gifted magician—Jonathan Strange—emerges to become his pupil and later his rival. Strange becomes increasingly obsessed with the Raven King—the medieval lord-magician of the North of England and pursues his desire to recruit a fairy servant to the edge of madness. Whilst the differing characters of Norrell and Strange give the book a central human conflict, it is the tension between the dual natures of civilised and wilder magic that lends it a metaphysical texture that shades the narrative with wonderful and troubling descriptions of ships made of rain, paths between mirrors and faerie roads leading out of England to a bleak yet dazzling realm. Fortunately, the precision of her storytelling never reigns in Clarke’s prodigious imagination. Clarke’s broad canvas of characters—including Wellington, Napoleon and Bryon, locations and tones are masterfully realised. However, sometimes her own enchantment with them leads her to drop her pace, although even at almost 800 pages, this is a book to which you’ll muster up little resistance. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the perfect novel to take up residence in as the nights get longer. -- Fiona Buckland -- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


‘A fabulous book … dazzling … highly original and compelling’ -- Sunday Times

‘Compelling: Clarke’s tale of magicians and fairies is a prodigious achievement’ -- Sunday Times

‘Extraordinary flights of the imagination … a leisurely, engaging read that draws you into another world. Ideal for escapists’ -- Claire Colvin, Daily Mail

‘Full of spells, bad weather, statues that talk, haunted ballrooms and sinister gentlemen with thistledown hair … be enchanted! *****’ -- Elle

‘Spellbinding … This is masterful, brilliantly paced storytelling … prodigiously imagined, elegantly witty, superbly crafted’ -- Scotsman

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitehead TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Jun 2008
Format: Paperback
Released in 2004, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was a huge success for its author, who had spent ten years writing the novel. It sat on the bestseller lists for quite some time, was hugely promoted (for over a year I couldn't go into either of my local Waterstones without seeing the book everywhere) and won both the 2005 Hugo Award and World Fantasy Awardfor Best Novel. Unusually for a self-proclaimed fantasy novel, it was also longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize (which normally prefers authors who refuse to admit their novels are SF or fantasy, such as Margaret Atwood). Time Magazine also named it the best novel of 2004.

The book opens in the early 19th Century. Britain used to be a centre of magical prowess and for three hundred years a powerful magician ruled a kingdom in the north (based around Newcastle) before disappearing, but in recent centuries magic has faded out of view and become purely a theoretical science. A theoretical magician, John Segundus, discovers a 'real' magician named Mr. Gilbert Norrell and reluctantly convinces him to make his magical abilities known to the public at large. At first resistant to the idea, Norrell soon changes his mind and finds himself the toast of London society and is greatly valued by the King and Parliament for the magical aid he gives in the war against Napoleon. However, Norrell's profile is upstaged by the emergence of a new magician, the young and handsome Jonathan Strange. Norrell sees Strange as headstrong and dangerous, whilst Strange thinks Norrell is controlling and old-fashioned.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Nov 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is such a pleasure! As several other readers have pointed out it is indeed, very long. And it isn't a 'page turner' that races you along because of a plot driven narrative, but it lures the reader in nonetheless. Its a bit like an absolutely delicious, but very, very rich traditional fruit cake, so if you really want to get the best out of it, its better savoured and enjoyed rather than crammed down in one sitting!
I think the Thackeray comparisons are quite accurate, more so than the Austen ones, as she writes on a 'world historical stage', as Thackeray did in his time.
Yes this is certainly a high, fantastical novel but not really 'an adult Harry Potter' - perhaps, more properly a magical view of real history. She sets the book as if it were written 'now' in the early 1800's, with a literary style to match. She writes about the Napoleonic Wars as if they were happening. There is a wealth of historical detail, colour and flavour - and into this, she injects a famtasy about magicians - but because she sets this magic firmly within the historical context, - even down to the brilliant device of citing earlier magical texts (which don't exist of course!) which she quotes extensively from in the footnotes you will find yourself believing this alternative view of history.
Beautifully written, very funny - in a sly and witty manner - and also terribly moving, I was torn between the desire to finish it - and also couldn't bear to finish it.
I'm not altogether sure whether the history books' descriptions of how England won the Napoleonic Wars may not be the fantasy version, and Clarke's version - disappearing armies, altering landscapes and resurrected soldiers of earth isn't the true version after all!
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By P. Smith on 29 Nov 2006
Format: Hardcover
An amazing book. How on earth the author managed to maintain so strongly the Dickensian/Jane Austenian(!) feel of the narrative I have no idea. It took me all of 3 months to read it - there was no possibility of "skipping" a passage because the whole book was so very readable and, may I say, even gripping in places - it would have been a pity to have missed any little bit of it! The principal characters are so real, despite many of them being obviously fictional and drawn from the realms of fantasy (difficult to understand, if you like), so that the reader is drawn into a web of fantasy woven into a story with some of the factual characters of history (Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington, etc) as well as those which dwell only in the author's imagination. The footnotes are a joy - taking the story off at a tangent, but without losing the plot and returning it safely to the matter in hand. Not everyone's cup of tea, I have no doubt, but I and many of my friends thought it wonderful! A book which I will not send off to a charity shop, but which will live on my bookshelf for many years to come, to be re-read again and again, such is its charm and charisma. It will be interesting to see what the author comes up with next! Can't wait!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Harvey on 31 July 2011
Format: Paperback
I took this book with me when I went camping last week in Suffolk. The location was enchanting - the magical beauty of the surrounding trees, fields and overcast English skies a perfect backdrop for the magic emanating from the pages of this wonderful book. I loved it and can't recommend it enough.
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