- 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)
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Hardcover – 30 Sep 2004
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Any book touted as the adult Harry Potter runs the risk of attracting critical parries from swords of the double-edged variety. If this wasnt 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 roomsalbeit 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 Clarkes 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 Englands 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 magicianJonathan Strangeemerges to become his pupil and later his rival. Strange becomes increasingly obsessed with the Raven Kingthe 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 Clarkes prodigious imagination. Clarkes broad canvas of charactersincluding 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 youll 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.
"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.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book. Throughly enjoyed reading it. One of my all-time favourite. Would highly recommend - it was great entertainment.Published 25 days ago by Norbert Lukacs
A very slow burner, not much happens and what does happen doesnt seem to progress the plot.Published 2 months ago by wayne porter
Oh! Indeed sir! A review is required? Oh! Well, perhaps the only outstanding complaint of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is that the writing becomes very condensed and quite "tough"... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Robert
Magnum Opus of a book. I know it took ten years to write and the footnotes alone would attest to that.
One of the best books I've read.
This is without doubt one of the finest books I've ever read. I was a little unsure at first. The style is (deliberately) old-fashioned and the pace very slow. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Karen Cobb