Douglas Gorney

Needing some help here. I'm at p. 122 and not encouraged. Beyond the twee period spellings, formally aping Jane Austen without her keen insights, sly humor and character development so far makes this seem like a rather tedious children's book. Wondering whether to keep going. Tell me — does it gets better — does the depth of the narrative and of the characters, and the magic itself, shift into something a-MAZ-ing?

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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 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.
Joe Dean Stop now, it's not for you. I've read it five times, and for me, it gets better everytime.
Kat!e Larson If you're that far and not enjoying it, I'd say this book isn't for you. It's one of my favorite books, but I loved it from page one. It's slow and the sense of humor is subtle. One of the reviews I read said that if you didn't laugh on page one, you probably won't like this book, and I agree with that.
Leah Steele If you can, I highly recommend getting the audiobook version. I both read and listened to this title and the narrator of the audio version, Simon Prebble, absolutely brought the narrative to life. The voice didn't seem dry or tedious in his hands. His talents brought the wit and subtle humour of the text to the forefront and made it absolutely delightful.

I enjoyed the print version, but listening to the audiobook elevated this one to my favorites list
A-bookworm Yes, PLEASE do tell, because I'm at 287, not even half way through, but certainly far enough to have an idea of how it is to go, and it's still like trudging through mud. every day I have to resist the urge to just put it down for good. And although I would call it young-adult, I can think of not a single young adult, not even the most bookish I know, who would want to read it, they just couldn't get through the first two-thirds.
However, I can imagine that with a lot of artistic license the BBC could make this much more entertaining.
Boy Blue There are two problems you could be having here. Either you aren't a fan of the writing style, in which case abandon the book, the style doesn't change, or, you find the story boring and slow, in which case persist, at least until Strange learns some magic. This story builds and builds throughout, the tiny glimpses of magic you see from the start give you fragments of this enormous realm of magic that exists in a parallel world to the one we live in. The man with the thistledown hair, the Raven King, the incidents in the footnotes, these are all part of a much bigger world. Beware though, the ending may annoy you considerably, not only because it lacks firm resolution but also because this book you've become immersed in comes to an end. You could try watching the tv series?
Lucie I'm on page 860, I agree completely with your initial assessment and, in my opinion, it doesn't really get any better. I'll read to the end now, because the time invested would be more wasted if I didn't. There is a sort of convoluted plot, but no character depth or development - it is all superficial. I would recommend it to people who enjoy Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, rather than Austen fans.
Pedro Menocal The first hundred pages are boring because it's about Norrell and Norrell is boring. Keep going. This is a great book. It's amazing. I felt the same way about the first hundred pages, then I could not put it down.
Jason Henry You know, somehow I felt like it was slow the whole time but I still loved it. I really can't explain why...
F I am not sure this is a children's book, more like young adult. I was pleasantly surprised by the style, it is slowly building and the number of characters made be think of Dickens or old style writing (which it was, after I read it, I read the Wikipedia page for the book).
It really creates suspense and delivers in the last third of the third volume. For me it was satisfactory, I could not leave the book until the end.
Though there are great feats of magic, you should not expect to find LOTR or The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Magic in this book is "useful" and "purposeful", it is not like a contest of will power between magicians. I hope this answer satisfies you.
Marlena I'm on page 97 and even though the plot seems to be a bit slow I keep reading because I love the low-key sense of humor. :) I feel like this book is a treasure mine of very sublime, witty ways to offend people. I'm learning a tone :D
Lolin It took me a year to finish the book. Like you I found it tedious. There are some good interesting bits but really I finished it more because I kept thinking I should love this book. But really, it was just not for me. I should have given up
Ross Anderson As this seems to be a really popular question and I imagine now so more than before I'll give my opinion:
I haven't watched the TV adaptation as of yet but I think I did I probably wouldn't read the book so I'd recommened to read the book before anything else.
It is quite dry and slow for the first part (all about Mr Norrell) and there is barely any magic happening due to Norrell's reluctance to perform it. Once you start to read more about Strange in part 2 however, the magic starts to be performed much more often and eventually to the point where it becomes quite spectacular (cities and towns being shifted around the country to fit the needs of the English army as they fight the French for example, I don't want to say much more than that because I'll be spoiling some of the most imaginitive parts of the book).
By part 3, which is the final 200-300 pages or so of the novel, the magic is so prevalent and fantastical that you can't help but keep reading.
The depth of the narrative certainly burrows deeper and becomes much richer by the end of part 2 - a lot of the story and characters are completely centred around Strange and his doings.
Patti It took me nearly a month to finish this book because I just never quite caught the rhythm of its voice. I appreciated Clarke's effort to imitate the period but I felt it lacked the dry observational wit that I usually enjoy in early 19th century works. So I bit off small pieces at a time and overall I'm glad I did. As John wrote, it ends quite well.
Terri I really didn't get into this book much until the last couple discs (audio version). Everything pulls together and it ends well.
Cap Cack Hm. Sort of. I'm rereading it now and skipping entire sections and skimming others because I vaguely remember that what is important disappears entirely for many pages. I'm with you, also, on the stylistic choices. If you read all of Austen's books you won't find "surprize" used as many times as Clarke uses it on one page - and you'll find 10 times the movement, character development and plot action in Austen as you do in Clarke. Because she doesn't REALLY use actual archaic style, just sort of fakes it (as you would know if you regularly read books of the period) her "surprize" and "chuse" become irritating affectations, not things you accept as you do in a period book (period authors just don't use "surprize" that often - they "chuse" other words). Also, Clarke can't decide what story she's telling. My advice, do a lot of skimming until the last third of the book and SKIP THE STUPID FOOTNOTES ENTIRELY. Clarke would have benefited immensely from a skilled editor. There's a good story here, and interesting characters. The book just has a LOT of fat that should have been cut.
Phillis If you can, watch the BBC'S amzing tv episodes! Only AFTER the book..
Will Meyerhofer Yeah, I just gave up about halfway through. The bits with Strange and Wellington in Spain were, well, a bit idiotic, and I can't think of a character or plot line I'm invested in and the author's prose style has me gritting my teeth. One more of those pointless footnotes and...yeah, I gave up. Plenty of books out there - best to find something one truly loves and read that. Yet, I was so hoping I could see what all the fuss was about. It must have one slam-dinger of an ending, but the plot bits that were coming couldn't have interested me less - the magic king and his mysterious book and that cringe-inducing plot around the Afro-Caribbean servant and the fairy guy and... oh who cares.
Cynthia Yes, after a very loooong time it suddenly gets amazing.
She could have cut the first 500 or so pages down to 100 and it would have been a much better book. But ultimately I was glad I struggled through.
Lori This is a long, long read. No doubt an achievement, but I started hating its plodding pace and Austinesque manners before it was done. Stuck it out, but not one I’ll return to.
Christina Same just goes so slow... I don't mind the narrative but I'm less than 1/3 in and I find it difficult to continue. I suppose it does get better because it wouldn't be such a high rated book otherwise, but it takes much effort to not put it down so far..!
Kate 7 years later, I've just found my copy in the back of a cupboard where I put it while tidying up. Hoorah! Can't wait to continue the story which is captivating.
Cat I absolutely adored it but I can imagine it's not for everyone. I might add that I'm a huge fan of Austen, et al.
Elaine I'm with you Douglas! I only Too much like Jane Austen, which i HATE! I think I'm shelving it.
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