Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Clarke, Susanna. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Read By Simon Prebble. Audio Renaissance/Bloomsbury Publishing.

This is such an ambitious read! I actually listened to it on audio (26 cds; 32 hours) and it was well done. Simon Prebble’s reading is great; probably the reason why I was able to finish all 700+ pages. The extensive footnotes were inserted at the right times (but are separate tracks so you can skip them if you like. I did.). Clarke does a great job making the characters and their magic seem otherworldly and mysterious. I particularly enjoyed when characters sensed something was amiss but couldn’t quite figure out why they felt that way. “Like a fifth point on a compass” was how one character described it. There is a subtle eeriness to the landscape when magic is afoot. Clarke’s vivid descriptions are imaginatively delicious. But, back to the plot. Many reviewers felt the story was too long and drawn out. I agree it lagged in places but Clarke’s gift of storytelling made up for the lengthy plot. Each volume is the introduction and delving into of a significant character. Volume I focuses on the entrance of Mr. Gilbert Norrell. Elderly and stodgy Mr. Norrell is discovered to be a practicing magician long after it was thought magic was dead. After The Learned Society of York Magicians convinces him to move to York to revive the practice, Norrell is called upon to revive the dead fiancee of a Cabinet minister and aid in the war against Napoleon (the ships made of water was one of my favorite scenes). In Volume II Jonathan Strange is further introduced as burgeoning magician from Shropshire. When he learns of Mr. Norrell is he prompted to meet this other practitioner. While they dispute the significance of the legendary Raven King, Strange becomes Norrell’s pupil and ultimately overshadows Norrell’s capabilities as a magician. After some time with Norrell, Strange is sent to Portugal and Spain to further aid the British against the French. As Strange’s magic grows stronger the competition grows until the Raven King kidnaps Strange’s wife.

Quote I agree with, “House, like people, are apt to become rather eccentric if left to too much on their own…” (p 488).

Reason read: Clarke was born in the month of November.

Book trivia: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was considered for many different awards: shortlisted for the Hugo Award and the Guardian First Book Award, long listed for the Booker Award…to name a few.

Author fact: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is Susanna Clarke’s first book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Plots for Plotzing” (p 186).



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