Mrsgaskell's Reviews > Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
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Oct 16, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: 9-star, british, bookcrossing, own
Read from October 09 to 16, 2011

This massive-seeming tome spent over three years on my TBR shelf. I'm not afraid of long books but somehow this one seemed daunting, perhaps because I knew it was liberally sprinkled with footnotes, some of them quite lengthy. In any case, a week ago I decided that it was time to tackle this book, fully prepared to give up on it for good if necessary. I can honestly say that once I started reading, quitting never crossed my mind. Although the book is perhaps a tad long, my interest was fully engaged and I was absorbed from start to finish. The footnotes were not really distracting since they were not dry references but interesting asides, and they added to the sense that this was a work of history. I think this book is a great accomplishment for a first novel. Susanna Clarke has successfully created a novel of historical fiction, magic, and social commentary. The world she has created, England during the Napoleonic Wars, Faerie, and the revival of magic is entirely believable. Although it is not a fast-paced novel, I found it became quite gripping as it neared its conclusion. The excellent writing and witty social commentary made this an easy read for me. I can see that it would not appeal to everyone but I personally loved it.

Mr. Norrell is a reclusive and scholarly Yorkshire magician who tries to keep the practice of magic to himself. He buys up all the magic books he can to keep them out of the hands of others and he tricks other magicians into giving up magic. After showing the society of Yorkshire magicians, all theoretical magicians, what he is capable of, he decides to go to London and bring practical magic back to England. Eventually, he takes a pupil, Jonathan Strange. But he is still not prepared to fully share his knowledge and eventually Strange and Norell become rivals. The magicians undertake work for the government and Strange is sent to help Wellington during the Napoleonic Wars. Norrell summons a fairy to help him carry out a powerful magic spell and this leads to no end of trouble for both magicians as well as some of the other characters. Although questions remain, and the world of magic maintains its mystery, I found the conclusion both rivetting and satisfying.
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