Meagan's Reviews > Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
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did not like it

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, depressed and confused, and those are four words that I do not like to associate with reading.

If you really want to plow through a novel like this, just go read some Charles Dickens. You get used to him after a few pages and you start to like him after the first chapter. Clarke, however, never redeems herself.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 28, 2007 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-50 of 69 (69 new)


Matt King You couldn't get past the second chapter, but say that the author "never redeems herself"?


Meagan Not to my knowledge, no. If a book doesn't catch my attention within the first 50 pages then I'm of the opinion that they're doing something wrong. You're welcome to disagree, but I believe that it's a fair chance.


Karen I'm 500 pages in and I'm still struggling with it. The footnotes are distracting and tedious, the font is ridiculous and it's only slightly amusing. I'll finish it because I'm want to find out where it gets good....


message 4: by Aquist0174 (new)

Aquist0174 I almost gave up on this book (which I HATE to do, but there are only so many hours in the day) many times, but I stuck with it, and it DOES pick up, get less dense, and infinitely more interesting. Not a 5 star read, but I'd give it a healthy 3.5.


message 5: by Dana (new) - rated it 1 star

Dana I hated this book. And I read the whole thing, which was quite an achievement. Absolutely one of the worst books I have ever read. The only reason I kept reading it was because I was waiting for something even remotely interesting to happen. Nothing ever did, in my opinion.


message 6: by The Stunner (new)

The Stunner I really liked it. The book which made me love 19th century literature.


message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue It's obviously wasted on some people..


Amyss all that you describe is setting the stage of the character (and character flaws) of Mr. Norrell. There is so much that is tongue in cheek you could not POSSIBLY "get" what she is trying to do.


Philip Schweitzer Everyone who disagrees with this reviewer needs to stop being so kind about it. You are a horrible reader if you get 50 pages into an 850 page novel and put it down because it isn't interesting enough yet. You made it 1/17 of the way through the book YAYYYY, and had already managed to make many assumptions about both the author and the book that were rash and wrong. Good day to you madame!


Molly Black I'm sorry, but I have to agree with Philip. Reading 50 pages and making an assumption and review based on that is poor reviewership. You can, of course, quite fairly write a review of the 50 pages you did read. But to make such an overwhelming negative review based on such a small percentage of the book? Poor.


Monica I read this book from cover to cover and it was a total chore. I completely agree with you! Just because it so large and has some good ideas doesn't mean its a masterpiece. Why it won sooo many awards is beyond me!


Philip Schweitzer Eh, oh well. What are some examples of books that you did like? I can understand that someone may not like this book, my problem was that Meagan was so quick to pass judgement on it.


Frank I'm 578 pages in and I have to admit I've struggled some as well. However I do think it's partly because I haven't read it straight through but rather took it on over a period of two months. But i agree: you cannot make an accurate judgement after 50 pages. At least 100 or a bit more is needed for that.


message 14: by Joe (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joe Of course it seemed pretentious and somewhat snobby, Clarke is emulating Dickens and other authors of the time period, she's not catering to the watered down bastardized version of English commonly spoken today.


message 15: by Ancestral (last edited Dec 23, 2011 12:59PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ancestral Gael I listened to the whole book and felt it a waste of my time; it only picked up towards the end of the second section. I have read Dickens and Austen and enjoyed them and I could see what the author was trying to achieve; it just didn't amuse me.


reverend dak I hated this book for the same exact reasons. I heard good things, it was the first book in the book club I joined. I got about 250 pages or so before I gave up on it.

I have to disagree with some of its defenders. If i have struggle with a book, and i gave it a good shot, i'm going to pass. There are just way too many good books and classics that i want to read to waste anymore time on a book I'm hating. Sorry. 50 pages or 200 pages? It doesn't matter, it has to hold my attention, and this book was one of the worst at doing that.


Sephinov It's okay folks, someday you'll grow up. Won't that be nice.


Kristin Meagan, I completely agree! Ugh, what an awful, boring, and irritating book.


message 19: by Norma (new)

Norma I got this book on an online swap site. Your review has made my mind up that I really don't want to waste my time reading this book. I hate books with loads of footnotes its very distracting to the storyline.


Goran i read about 500 pages of this book and gave up.... there was no point in reading, it was eating me up with boring and dull descriptions... i totally agree with Megan, it never redeems itself.... just when I think ooh it starts good, then comes 50-80 pages of something totally boring and dull.... gave up on it and never look back...


Catherine Caluian I'm struggling ! Soooo bored , I hate not finishing a book but ....my god it goes off in some many directions .


message 22: by Megan (new) - rated it 1 star

Megan I feel the exact same way! Ughh...


message 23: by Barb (new) - rated it 1 star

Barb I hate to give up on a book, especially one I am SURE I'm going to love but this time I just couldn't keep reading. I made it to page 700 and when I found myself hating the thought of picking it up and wasting more of my valuable time I gave in and gave it the heave ho.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Your review has described my feelings perfectly. I have given up on this book in exhaustion and annoyance.


Candice I agree. I've commented about how it seems like she is just TRYING to make the book long. There is so much useless information. I'm 50% done with it right now, and I am really struggling to finish it.


message 26: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Oh thank goodness, I thought I was totally alone in this. I'm almost 200 pages in and bored out of my mind. Every once in a while something good n juicy pops up and I'm like, "Oh okay, here's the turning point," but it's not at all. I wonder if this book would've been better if it had been under the supervision of a merciless editor.


Richelle Witbrodt How can you claim that she never redeems herself if you haven't read past chapter 2? I get what you're saying, as it start off pretty slow, but I quite liked the book. I'd say if you want to plow through something it is certainly not the book for you.


Nazmul Hasan "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."

That's exactly why I'm in love with this book.
Every single line is funny. The book is so incredibly funny that I haven't read anything similar to it.

It's a shame you cannot enjoy it. This is easily the greatest book written in the last decade.


Charles I quit at the cover. What an absolutely boring cover. How long winded. I hate black and white movies. How old fashioned. It's even too heavy to use as a doorstop.


Nazmul Hasan Charles wrote: "I quit at the cover. What an absolutely boring cover. How long winded. I hate black and white movies. How old fashioned. It's even too heavy to use as a doorstop."

It's a shame you feel that way. This book is one of the best I've ever read. Top notch funny fantasy.


message 31: by georgie (new) - added it

georgie this book is so hard, I ended up abandoning it because it was taking too much of my time.


message 32: by georgie (new) - added it

georgie this book is so hard, I ended up abandoning it because it was taking too much of my time.


message 33: by georgie (new) - added it

georgie this book is so hard, I ended up abandoning it because it was taking too much of my time.


Nazmul Hasan gee wrote: "this book is so hard, I ended up abandoning it because it was taking too much of my time."

Unfortunately a knowledge of the period is needed to enjoy it. No one wants to waste their time researching Nepolean and what not (no seriously, all the knowledge I have of the period is from watching a PBS special).

I guess Clarke could have chosen a more familiar period of British history


message 35: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay Sad when so many people can't appreciate a book because it's TOO HARD TO READ BOOHOO.


Monica Wow - Jay, it wasn't too hard to read, it was completely lacking in any plot. I read epics and classics all the time. Dostoevsky reads like Harry Potter compared to this. I liked the characters but 700 pages of character development?


message 37: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay Monica wrote: "Wow - Jay, it wasn't too hard to read, it was completely lacking in any plot. I read epics and classics all the time. Dostoevsky reads like Harry Potter compared to this. I liked the characters but..."

"Completely lacking in any plot" besides the several plots occurring simultaneously in the book, some of which from the very beginning...? Maybe the proper English confused you, but I picked up something about English magic, a mischievous fairy, some missing wives...


Monica So you can't have people disagree with you without being insulting? Well, no problem with the proper English or the 7 or 8 sub plots that emerged, disappeared then reemergence 200 pages later. Easily this book could have been about 400 pages and fun instead of dragging out the additional 500 pages to set up unrelated information for her inevitable sequels.


Richelle Witbrodt It all comes down to pace. If you don't like a slow pace and an immense amount of world-building details, you probably won't like the book. There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't not make it poorly written or badly done. If you don't like a faster-paced book, you probably won't like another wide variety of books, but again, this doesn't make those titles lesser in quality necessarily. There's really no point arguing about taste - it's like saying "this food was a watermelon, and I hate watermelon, so that food was a bad food." It might be true, but it certainly isn't helpful for folks who like watermelon.


Monica Not sure it's a pace thing... I've read and enjoyed all 5 Game of Thrones, the first 2 Outlander books, Ken Follet's Century Trilogy. All of which have a large amount of world-building details. I actually liked the world of this book, but the book just had a bunch of common threads and really very little plot. Even Martin will spend hundreds of pages just maneuvering characters but then those last 200 pages, suddenly everything just goes. This book didn't even give that - no payoff, no epiphanies, no great moments, just a huge collection of small moments all leading up to a sequel.


Richelle Witbrodt I think it just feels slower even if it spends a similar amount of time world-building and setting up, but I enjoyed that about it. It diverted in interesting ways to explain backgrounds and characters. I did find the ending unsatisfying in terms of our two magicians (and wifey), but was happy with the demise of the man with the thistle-down hair. I just enjoyed the journey. I don't think it can be rationalized any more than that.


Monica Agreed - it really just does come down to taste... it didn't click for me. It did for you. There you go. Such is the nature of any art. And agreed about the ending - I did feel she was just wanting to set up the inevitable sequel. I wish authors would stop thinking in terms of trilogies.


David Meredith To enjoy this book you have to appreciate 19th century literature. If you aren't a big fan of Jane Austin and Regency novels or lack the capacity to at least appreciate them, then yes, you probably won't like this book, but I think this review totally misses the point. What Clarke sought to do was construct a modern fantasy novel written convincingly in the 19th century regency style - that goal was an unmitigated success. I think you could hand this book to someone who lived in the 1870-1890s and they would absolutely get it as if it had been written during their time. It's one thing not to like the book, but if you totally fail to appreciate what the author accomplished, I think it likely simply a function of a lack of real literary experience. No this book isn't Twilight, but it was NEVER intended to be.


Nazmul Hasan David wrote: "To enjoy this book you have to appreciate 19th century literature. If you aren't a big fan of Jane Austin and Regency novels or lack the capacity to at least appreciate them, then yes, you probably..."

thank you sir. (PS it's on my top 10)


Kristin Strong I love Jane Austen. I cannot finish this book.


message 46: by David (last edited Aug 04, 2015 05:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Meredith Kristin wrote: "I love Jane Austen. I cannot finish this book."

Jane Austin wrote romance. This is a straight up fantasy novel written in a highly accurate 19th century style - something I've never seen done before incidentally - so perhaps that's an issue for you. I was only making a style reference (Jane Austin might not be the perfect reference, but she's the only 19th century novelist that a lot of modern readers are familiar with). Stylistically, this work is brilliant and complicated, but historically authentic to the time period the author intended to portray. Yes, you have to work your brain muscle a little bit to appreciate it and some people don't like that (if that were not so, Daniel Steele wouldn't be so popular) but that is in no way an indictment of the work. It's one thing to say that you just simply don't like it, but to claim that it is "pretentious" and "superior" like Meagan did above just shows that she doesn't get the genre and failed to understand the writer's purpose as well as the incredible difficulty involved in writing something that was so true to that period of literature. There are plenty of books that I do not particularly find entertaining (Pluck the Bud and Destroy the Offspring by Kenzaburo Oe comes immediately to mind) but I can still appreciate excellent writing, which anyone who understands literature can clearly see that this is.


Kristin Strong Or maybe we can agree that people's tastes vary and that maybe it has nothing to do with one's ability to understand literature or to wrestle with difficult works. I've read and enjoyed a wide variety of literature in many genres and by many, many authors (Danielle Steele is not one of those I've enjoyed); this book just does not speak to me. And that's okay.


Monica Agreed Kristen. A snooze fest. I'd rather pick up Hugo or Dumas or Tolkien if I want adventure, fantasy and/or a compelling story.


message 49: by Rosy (new) - rated it 1 star

Rosy Lewis-Ullah I was told many time this book was amazing. I tried to read it on 5 occasions and on this occasion made it to page 404 where I gave up. It just was't interesting enough for me. I kept waiting for something to really happen and keep me hooked and it just didn't. I have the same "50 page rule", if a book doesn't grip me around the 50 page mark, I move on to something else. There are millions of books out there and they're not for everyone. This one was truly not what I hoped for.


message 50: by Rosy (new) - rated it 1 star

Rosy Lewis-Ullah I was told many time this book was amazing. I tried to read it on 5 occasions and on this occasion made it to page 404 where I gave up. It just was't interesting enough for me. I kept waiting for something to really happen and keep me hooked and it just didn't. I have the same "50 page rule", if a book doesn't grip me around the 50 page mark, I move on to something else. There are millions of books out there and they're not for everyone. This one was truly not what I hoped for.


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