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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell [Paperback]

Susanna Clarke , Portia Rosenberg
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (414 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

5 Sep 2005
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

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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 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (414 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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.

Review

‘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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible read 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
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read in a Suffolk field 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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130 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm with Neil Gaiman 8 Oct 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is truly a fantastic book. I can't praise it highly enough. The plot, characters, pacing and, above all, the back story, make this a brilliant novel and a fantastic début. And, being a Yorkshire lass myself, it was certainly gratifying to find a novel that doesn't rampantly stereotype all Northerners.
The story begins in 1806, when two theoretical magicians with the wonderfully Dickensian names of Segundus and Honeyfoot encounter the reclusive scholar, Mr Norrell. Their quest is to find out why magic, which was once so common in England, particularly in the North under the 300 year reign of the Raven King John Uskglass, is now a distant history to be studied by gentlemen like themselves. But they discover that, for all his bookish and condescending ways, Mr Norrell is in fact a practical magician, which he proves by bringing all the statues in York Minster/Cathedral to life. Having brought his powers to the attention of the public, he immediately sets of to London, where he plans to help in the war effort against Napoleon, and in the process resurrect English magic.
At first he is not taken seriously, and it soon becomes clear Norrell will go to any lengths to become the only magician in England. But when he encounters Jonathan Strange, another magician, he seems to wake up to new possibilities. He takes Strange on as a pupil. But the two men are too different for the partnership to last. Norrell is secretive and unfriendly, hoarding magical knowledge and desperately preserving his own prestige. Strange is charming and gregarious, and becomes a hero in the wars. What starts off as mild rivalry soon escalates into a feud, with far reaching consequences.
If you've see the size of this book, you'll understand it's a hard thing to summarize.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange by name, strange by nature 7 May 2006
Format:Paperback
The main virtue of this book is the way in which it portrays the magical, the surreal and the ridiculous whilst still assuring the reader of the seriousness of the overall endeavour. Whether its painting a scene with lashings of black humour, or dwelling casually on the gruesomeness of the living dead, we are convinced of the writer's commitment to genuine realism both in the characterisation and in the dynamics of the narrative. Whilst the Regency England depicted in the novel is a magical one, there is an internal consistency and wonderful focus on detail which draws us in to an experience which is the ultimate in escapism. The style and orthography of the writing makes you feel like you are entering a different world every time you open the book. The pseudo-eighteenth century style and orthography isn't quite authentic but gets about as close as the setting does to the historical one and creates the same kind of effect - the sense that you have happened upon some artifact of the past, but which doesn't quite match up with the reality we've always been told about. At some points in the book you almost find yourself believing that sorcery was a respected academic discipline in the early nineteenth century - they did wear those ridiculous wigs after all.
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82 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique 25 Aug 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have been fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Reading Copy of this book. The novel is hyped as many thing. To my great delight, I found it to be none of them. It's neither Harry Potter for adults, nor a Lord of the Rings clone.
Then what is it? It's a beautifully written, witty, and enchanting tale. It's full of deep and interesting characters, it's full of imaginative little anecdotes and fables, and it's full of adventure. There is more imagination and detail in this book than could possibly fit within its 800 pages, and so I can only suspect that it has been enhanced by the subtle use of magic that its main characters are more than capable of. So no, it isn't Harry-Potter-like, or Tolkien-like. Perhaps the fairest comparison I can think of is Neil Gaiman's Stardust.
However, if you dislike footnotes, be warned, for there are many of them, and they can reach impressive lengths. Similarly, if your attention span is only a couple of seconds long, then maybe Harry Potter is more suitable to your taste: In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, not every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. It is a compliment to the author's skill that no such cheap tricks are needed, and that the story is engaging and involving despite its (initially) leisurely pace.
This book is hyped up to be THE book of the year, and having read it, I am quite willing to believe it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars very slow and boring in parts
I was really looking forward to this book after Richard madeley called it Harry Potter for grown ups. It was really disappointing, very slow and boring in parts!!
Published 4 days ago by Mrs Susan L Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love, love, love this book
Published 5 days ago by christina watkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakinginly brilliant book. Magical
Breathtakinginly brilliant book.Magical, intriguing, un-put-downable. Awesome piece of literature that will stand the test of time - don't expect it will be filmable...
Published 1 month ago by Theolyn Cortens
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant/brilliant/brilliant
A wonderful, clever, imaginative book, very well written. It was a delight to be in its company. I think of it still.
Published 1 month ago by Francisca
5.0 out of 5 stars Forthcoming TV programme
After visiting a national trust property near Rotherham I was told that the bbc had made a TV programme based on this book!
Published 1 month ago by Jan Holloway
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 years well spent
Apparently this book took Susanna Clarke ten years to complete and you can see why. The book creates an alternative world with so much attention to detail that you almost forget... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars loved
hurry up and write another book. a fantastical and fantastic master work thank you for coning up with it yes thats all i wabt to say
Published 1 month ago by James Layfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely wonderful
A book that made me laugh, cry and took me to another very believable world. I dreamt such dreams... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dutch
1.0 out of 5 stars Good prose but no plot
Says it all really. The prose is excellent but, as others have said, the only "magic" is that so many pages can contain so little plot. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brendan Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking forward to Christmas......
......for the BBC adaptation.
This was a book that I didn't care to read upon its publication.To much coverage had me in a mind that it would be just another book that HAD to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by G. Taylor
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