Tim Giauque's Reviews > Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
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's review
Dec 31, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: hugo-nebula, sci-fi
Read in December, 2009

Ah, "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell." This is a very long, very thorough, very original story, and I would love to see a sequel some day. It's long enough that sometimes the narrative sags a little bit, but it's so full of interesting scenes and characters that I really didn't mind a bit of diversion here and there.

There are a lot of reviews that compare this book to Harry Potter, but I really think that's just because there's magic and it's British. The HP books use magic a LOT more, and it's a lot more central to the plot, than JS&MN. Here, the use of magic - and the non-use thereof - are often used to explore the relationship between young, daring Jonathan Strange and old, fusty, conservative Mr. Norrell. Ultimately, I think that makes the book more interesting: Mr. Norrell's feelings about magic are based on his years of experience. He has reasons for feeling the way he does. Similarly, Strange's excitement and willingness to dive into the deep end are understandable and contagious. You really want to see what kinds of crazy stuff he's going to come up with. Scenes like Strange in Spain, doing magic to defeat Napoleon's army, are among the best in the book because he really takes the gloves off.

I had thought, going into this book, that the archaic writing style would be an impediment, but it really wasn't. I actually came to find it very charming, and it certainly didn't impede my enjoyment of the story at all. Similarly, too, the use of footnotes helps flesh out the enormous backstory Clarke has put together in her mind. The history of this Britain is very well developed and it left me wanting to know more about characters like John Uskglass, Martin Pale, and Thomas Stokesey.

Keep in mind that this sucker is over 1,000 pages long. (Don't pick up a book this size if you aren't going to be able to find time to get through it.) It's hard to write that much without it sagging a little bit, and this book does. The chapters were short enough and the point of view changed often enough to keep my interest, though.

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Reading Progress

12/26/2009 page 800

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