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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Hardcover – 30 Sep 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 752 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 30 Sep 2004
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (30 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582344167
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582344164
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 5.9 x 25.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (752 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 294,934 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Holidays are wonderful things. If you go on holiday you can read Susanna Clarke's novel 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell' (which, in my probably biased but not entirely uninformed opinion, is the best English fantasy novel written in the last seventy years: over 800 pages, and when it ends you're just sad there aren't another 800." Neil Gaiman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The style is a little sub-Austen (the little tics of spelling are a little tedious after a while) but beautifully comprehensible. I strongly recommend getting the paper edition because of the sheer delight of the footnotes, which surpass in every way the great Puritan writers, or Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. The story itself is magnificent and the characters well cast. And like the best poets, Susanna Clarke brings us into a vision of a beautiful, glamorous and rather dangerous England that we would all be glad to live in.
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Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
It's a hefty tome, make no mistake. And that's fine, because it is chock full of original fantasy, wry humour and oh-so proper manners.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. Sure anyone will love. Story is amazing and while epic long it flies by with all the twist and turns.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliantly realised not quite our world.
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Format: Audio Download
In short, a dusty gentleman called Mr Norrell attempts to bring magic back to the world, and along the way takes on a flamboyant assistant called Jonathan Strange who soon outshines them. They have a disagreement. A creature from the realms of magic takes umbrage against them. There are twists, and some turns.

A nutshell summary of this massive book does it no justice at all. It’s an exceptionally rich read, full of complex, flawed characters, told with a dry and infectious academic wit, that sketches out a whole alternate history crammed with anecdotes and short stories in the footnotes alone. It’s often funny, sometimes cruel, and utterly immersive (as some of you will know, that is the highest praise I can give a fiction). The beginning moves slowly as the necessarily rather difficult to savour Mr Norrell begins his mission, but when Strange arrives on the scene it cracks along. Seeds sown early reap an abundance of fruit later on, and the sprawling narrative takes so many unexpected turns along the way that I found myself constantly delighted. Clarke subverts the natural structure of a story like this at every opportunity, with even the show stopping climax delivering deliciously unpredictable shifts and balances that took me by surprise. It soaked up almost a month of my reading year, but doesn’t feel that way. When I was away from it, I wanted only to return. I wish I hadn’t read it at all, so that I could now read it for the first time.

This is probably one of my favourite books now. So there.
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Format: Paperback
I finished reading this exquisite novel last night - and am exceedingly sad as a consequence. This book is one of a very rare breed; the kind of book you want to continue reading forever. The writing is perfectly polished whilst being extremely accessible. Reading it feels likes drinking cocoa and wearing comfy slippers - the prose flows through your ears and slips into your mind with the ease of a conversation with an old friend.. There is no effort required on the reader's part, which is an incredible feat considering the actual subject matter is of such a complex and considered nature.
I have read some of the one and two-star reviews on Amazon and am amazed to see people complain of a "lack of plot". If you want a simple book with a straightforward beginning, middle and end, perhaps you would do well to steer clear of this one. This novel is like a fine vintage win, full of delicate notes and sublte undertones - it does not have the immediate hit of a shot of vodka.
It is a book of tremendous wit and humour which is subtly nuanced not forced into your face. I found myself laughing aloud several times at the satirical observations on history and politics.
The characters possess real depth and their natures evolve realistically throughout the novel - by "realistically" I mean that they alter gradually and slightly. This is not a heavy-handed work of fiction where the bad guy renounces his sins at the end and becomes good.
I feel desperately sorry for anyone who read this book and didn't feel its full power. This is a book to luxuriate in and is the best novel I have read in many years - one for the real literature lovers who appreciate style AND substance equally.
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Format: Paperback
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell doesn't begin with much of bang, but its is worth sticking with for it one of the best books I've ever read. It begins with the character of Mr Norrell, who is a boring and tiresome character, and hence the book's initial volume struggles to excite. Indeed, I almost gave up on it (first volume is 250 pages!)but am so glad that I didn't. The introduction of Jonathon Strange - Norrell's dynamic, amiable protege - gives the narrative a whole new dimension, with the plot cranking up in speed and before you know it you can't put this book down. The world the author creates becomes ever more fascinating, as Strange, unlike Norrell, seeks to explore his world further and what a wonderful world it is. The author mixes the factual world of 1800s Britain with sprinklings of fantasy as Strange and Norrell study magic as though it were a profession like any other, such as law or medicine or politics. Strange enters the war between Washington and Napoleon, the social scene of upper class London and the unexplored world of fairy, pulling Norrell unwittingly along with him and putting their lives, and that of Strange's wife, in jeopardy.

So with all that said, its a challenge to identify what type of book this is. It has the feel of a Victorian novel, yet also it is is also part of the fairy tale genre that the likes of Neil Gaiman have done so well with. It is about the conflict between two good men who come from two different extremes, and how they both deal with the success their profession brings to them. It's also about the telling of a classic fairy tale - not the modern fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after, but the original ones where sometimes Red Riding Hood gets eaten up and Hansel and Gretel find themselves in hot water.
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