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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  168,610 Ratings  ·  12,353 Reviews
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 sum ...more
Paperback, UK, 1006 pages
Published September 5th 2005 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published September 8th 2004)
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John There is some slowness at the beginning, after Norrell arrives in London, and before Strange is on the scene. Then the story picks up again. I found…moreThere is some slowness at the beginning, after Norrell arrives in London, and before Strange is on the scene. Then the story picks up again. I found the last 300 pages unstoppable.

However: if you haven't enjoyed it so far, you may not enjoy the rest. You don't seem to enjoy the voice, which structures the whole narrative, and that may be a deal-breaker.(less)
Rita Lamb The plot in the book is very ingenious but also very intricate, so for TV it has been simplified and some locations conflated. I felt Stephen Black is…moreThe plot in the book is very ingenious but also very intricate, so for TV it has been simplified and some locations conflated. I felt Stephen Black is less morally complex in the series than in the book, while Lady Pole gained a feminist dimension. Several enjoyable minor characters are dropped and Lascelles meets a somewhat different fate. It's still a remarkable adaptation though, and keeps more of the original than it loses.(less)

Community Reviews

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J.G. Keely
Sigh, just what we need, another revolutionary, unusual fantasy book by an author with a practiced mastery of tone. When will authors like Clarke realize that what the fantasy genre needs are more pseudo-medieval monomyths that sprawl out into fifteen volumes?

Her magic didn't conveniently solve all of the characters' problems, instead, they wasted time thinking through conflicts and then had to solve them by taking action; how dull is that? The magic was weird, anyways. It didn't have a simplist
...more
Kelly
May 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of gothic, Victorian, Jane Austen or fantasy literature.
Without a doubt the best book I have read this year. I write that without hesitation and with a beaming smile on my face. Incredible. Enthralling. Amazing. The book was over 800 pages long and it did not seem long enough. When I finished the book, I immediately turned out the light and tried to drift off to sleep, because I knew nothing else I did that night was going to top the feeling I got after blowing through the last 100 pages like a madwoman. I want to start it over again, immediately.

The
...more
Eric
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I so wanted to like this book. The idea is just wonderful. I was so pleased for a while to be in that world, a historical England. I love the dialogue and descriptions. And I love the idea of magic in an otherwise real setting, as though it were a normal part of our actual world. But it was so frustrating to read after a while. The footnotes, auuuugh, the footnotes. They were cute at first, because the book is written sort of like a history book from that period. But after a while they were just ...more
Tiza
Aug 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves fantasy, 19th century British lit and can endure long, slow read
Shelves: fantasy
Although Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell turns out to be a book I dearly love, I'm afraid I can't recommend it to just anyone. Whether you'll like it or not will truly depend on what you expect it to be. If you wish for a fast-paced excitement then this book is probably not for you. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a blend of meticulously researched historical fiction and imaginative fantasy, sprinkled here and there with biting social comedy, and written in a style similar to Austen's, whic ...more
Meagan
Aug 28, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Jesus Christ, this book reads like molasses. It's like the author took every book from her Brit Lit class and consciously tried to make it wordier and longer than all of them combined. I get the point she wants to make, but I honestly could not get past the second chapter.

It also was so incredibly pretentious. The whole thing has this superior feel, like having a conversation with someone who is absolutely reassured of how much smarter they are than you. It left me feeling bored, stupid, depres
...more
Bookdragon Sean
Book like this are not written anymore. This feels like it should have been published in the nineteenth century and not because of the obvious setting, but because of the remarkable writing style. It is very similar to Austen’s that I’m sure she might have been delighted by Clarke’s work. Well, maybe. But, either way novelists like this do not exist in this age, unfortunately. The writing has the feel of a classic, but the plot has the feel of a thoroughly charming fantasy.

This is a work of co
...more
Jayson
(B+) 77% | Good
Notes: Very slow paced and the ending doesn’t justify its length, but characters are strong and it shows flashes of brilliance.
Paul Bryant
If a novel of nearly 900 pages can be summarised in one phrase then Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell may, I think, be described as a stately, sly, witty, intricate, comic retelling of Dracula, with digressions and very little blood.

Count Dracula takes life from beautiful young ladies, enslaves them, enchants them, enraptures them, steals them away, into his own twilight (oops, sorry) vampire world – they become something other than what they were, undead, not alive yet not dead, creatures which
...more
Apatt
Sep 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-20, fantasy-top20
Neil Gaiman said that this book is "hard to overpraise", I will make an attempt thus:

While I was reading the second half of this book it occurred to me that I don't actually need to read any other novel ever again, I could just read this one book over and over again for the rest of my days and when the Grim Reaper calls I shall have this book clutched possessively in my stiff, unyielding fingers.

Momentary insanity of course, but it is indicative of the devotion I feel toward this book. With in t
...more
Lyn
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If a writer is going to publish a book this big (thousand plus pages) then it must be very good, or the readers will never know about the thousands plus pages beyond the heft as they toss it aside or by the thickness as it is put back on the shelf.

This book is that good.

Using language correct for the time period (Napoleonic Wards era, early 1800s) and richly complex characterizations reminiscent of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, author Susanna Clarke has crafted a gem. It was the winner of and
...more
mark monday
the hero of this novel, Mr. Norrell, is in many ways a stranger in a strange land, uncomfortable with base emotions and disappointed with the shabbiness and inadequacies of others... yet always yearning for true companionship. a dignified, erudite, and refined gentleman; quietly soulful and elegantly restrained; commanding in his encyclopedic knowledge of the magical arts.

the other character, a fey and unreliable sort apparently named "Jonathan Strange", offers fleeting friendship that is quick
...more
Carol.
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Victorian fantasy fans, insomniacs
In the beginning was a preface, and then an introduction, followed by some exposition, and then an opening.

Looking through the reviews, it appears many people either adore it or hate it. Frankly, I'm in neither camp, because I can't work up enough emotion to care. It took a long time to become interested, and I finally had to resort to a strategy of reading only a few chapters at a time, setting free any expectation that this was a book that would pull me in and never let me go. It became the p
...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Also posted on Fantasy Literature:

Tadiana: This book is like a mashup of Jane Austen, or maybe Charles Dickens, and fantasy, with Regency-era British magicians and charming, vindictive and devious faeries. It creates an incredibly rich, complex and detailed fantasy world; the Raven King mythology is fantastic. The main plotline of this novel deals with the on-and-off friendship between two very different magicians: Mr Norrell, who is bookish, stuffy and reclusive, and Jonathan Strange, who's a
...more
Henry Avila
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the early part of the nineteenth -century there arose in northern England, ( well one by the border of Wales) two powerful magicians, old bookworm Gilbert Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey, always reading in his immense, dark library, obscure, ancient, dusty books on the subject that he cares only about, magic, and young, tall Jonathan Strange, who inherited like his future short friend, tutor and rival Mr. Norrell, (not interested then, in wizardry) a vast amount of property and money. Around the cit ...more
Evgeny
Jun 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Lately I became very fond of static pictures in my reviews. This book will have none. It deserves a very serious discussion and I feel the inclusion of pictures would provide a distraction from such.

The best description of the book would be the following. Suppose Charles Dickens and Jane Austen had a love child – a daughter. A publisher was so thrilled by this that he promised to pay for a novel written by the daughter for each written word. The latter realized it would be a good time to take c
...more
Diane
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally finished! My paperback was more than 1,000 pages long, so this is a triumph.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a book that I started out loving, but the middle part dragged so much that I grew impatient for the story to end. I feel so differently about the two halves of the book that I wish I could issue two Goodreads ratings.

Let's start with what I liked about this novel. Susanna Clarke has a great imagination and a good sense of humor. The story is set in the early 1800s in Engla
...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
After a hiatus of several centuries since it was actively practiced, magic is back in early 19th century England. Clarke has created an alternate, magical history, in which England had once been divided between north and south, and a temporal and a fairy kingdom. Stuffy intellectuals satisfy themselves with studying the writings of the past, forming debating societies. But in 1807 a person emerges who dares to actually practice magic.

description
Eddie Marsden as Mr Norrell - from AMC networks

Mr Norrell is
...more
Maggie Stiefvater
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended
This slow burn historical fantasy (it really isn't a proper historical fantasy -- it's really told much more as a straight historical and the fantasy is bonus) is one of the best novels I've read -- ever. Clarke never breaks voice or changes her slow, relentless pacing. It's a novel meant to be savored over the course of a month, not rushed through -- so that you can properly appreciate the rush of the climax.


***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite
...more
Arah-Lynda
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, to-the-island, lod, i-said
Tired of your workaday lives,

Need to get away for a while?

Come, sit a spell

Let Susanna tell you a story.




We go to England in the 1800’s, a time of the Napoleonic Wars, a time when most people believe magic to be dead in England. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell are two magicians attempting, each in their own way, to change that and restore magic to England.

I can admit that it took me a while to find my legs here, acquire my own rhythm with the writing and the story. In many ways this reads lik
...more
Sam
Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Most books are not for everyone, and it can occasionally be hard to determine from a cover, a blurb, a sample chapter if something will be for you or not. And even if you believe something is for you, the book still needs to reveal and unfold and delight and surprise and strike emotional chords and climax and conclude to your satisfaction by its end, all while also possessing a writing style you respond to or at least does not detract from your enjoyment. So its sometimes a wonder we like any bo ...more
Julio Genao
and the kitchen sink.

description

simultaneously contemptuous and admiring of georgian culture and society, and possessed of many, many insights into the black heart of humankind, this book left me in a state of despair shot through with occasional palpitations of humor and excitement.

on the whole, a vastly self-indulgent work—and as impressed with itself as we're meant to be.

the footnotes, see... i love footnotes. but unlike, say, infinite jest, whose footnotes were by and large interesting and germane, the
...more
Jonathan Terrington
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is Susanna Clarke's bestselling Fantasy History Novel. And it is amazing, astounding, supertastical, and brilliant. These are all just a handful of the real (and created) adjectives possible to throw at this tome. Were one to enter into an adjective war this book would defeat them hands down. For the potency of the words inside is incredible. And having done so would commence to bury  in a pile of prose so powerful that I would be diabolically destroyed.

Jonathan S
...more
Scribble Orca
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: almost everyone - unless you prefer Hollywood blockbusters, in which case, you'll be bored.
Recommended to Scribble by: Kris

I have quite some things to say and so little time in which to say these. And now we have the great year of Proust...it may be some time before these things are said, time being what it is, holidays being what they are, and my thoughts being scattered as usual.

So perhaps it's best to attempt the following:

Comparisons with Austen are appropriate for the social commentary and the (at times gently and perhaps not so gently snide) remarks the narrator makes about the actions of the characters. But t
...more
Candi
Sep 17, 2017 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
At page 246, I'm throwing the towel in on this one. It's not that it's bad, it's really not. I just can't seem to get excited about it, and after this many pages, I want to be more eager to pick it up. I'm just not interested enough to find out what happens in the next 500 pages or so. I have so many other books screaming for my attention. Now this book is classified as fantasy and I don't usually read this genre. That's not to say I have never enjoyed a fantasy novel - I have in fact enjoyed a ...more
Terry
4 - 4.5 stars

Fantastic story. One of the few that actually lives up to the hype. Be warned though: this is a loooong book and it is true that, from one point of view at least, it can be said that not too much happens in it. The title tells us what the two main sections of the book will cover: the lives of the last two true magicians in an alternate 19th century Britain. They are the bookish, annoying and altogether full of himself Mr. Norrell and the flighty, brilliant and altogether full of him
...more
Colin
May 10, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anglophiles, historical fiction fans
Shelves: fiction
I'd heard for a long time how amazing this book was, and I was decidedly unmoved by it. I did read the whole thing, and at 800 pages, that felt like an accomplishment. Clarke obviously put a lot of work into the back story, creating an entire historical library of magic that is cited in footnotes throughout. That kind of detailed work is, i suppose, admirable. However, I found the two main characters (rich white English men) boring. I couldn't bring myself to really care what happened to them, a ...more
Sue
Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of fantasy, historical fiction
Finis!! Oh how I hate to be finished...now I will have to find another book to fill the fantasy void. I really loved the experience of this book, the setting in an other England just a bit different than that of the history books, the language with its historical feel, the entire created world-view which Clarke completes with skilled use of footnotes set in that other world.

This a tale of the return of magic to England and the rivalry of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It is epic in its scope,
...more
Aubrey
Let us start at the beginning, shall we?

I've seen the Jane Austen comparisons, and for a while, that was the truest description of the book. Oh, you had your magic, but it was all very clean cut and bureaucratic and properly filed out in a mix of social gatherings and book references. All very English, is the closest I can get to a suitable description. And so I resigned myself to collecting witty quotes while perusing a charming yet not so remarkable tale of gentlemen magicians.

Lucky for me, th
...more
Clouds

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my HUGO WINNERS list.

This is the reading list that follows the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I loved reading the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners so I'm going to crack on with the Hugo winners next (but only the post-1980 winners, I'll follow up with
...more
Kat  Hooper
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Let me say two things about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell:

1. This is one of the finest novels I have ever read. Ever.
2. You might hate it.

Okay, let me say more. I listened to this book on audio and, because of the language and humor, I was delighted from the very start. I listened for 32 hours and approximately 25 of those hours are rather slow. Interesting stuff happens, but nothing that's going to put you on the edge of your seat. It's leisurely and
...more
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2,987 followers
Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham in 1959. A nomadic childhood was spent in towns in Northern England and Scotland. She was educated at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and has worked in various areas of non-fiction publishing, including Gordon Fraser and Quarto. In 1990, she left London and went to Turin to teach English to stressed-out executives of the Fiat motor company. The following year she ...more
More about Susanna Clarke

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“And how shall I think of you?' He considered a moment and then laughed. 'Think of me with my nose in a book!” 1974 likes
“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange.
Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never could.”
595 likes
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