January 20, 2006

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel

by Susanna Clarke

JS “Yay! I finally finished it!” That was my first thought as my eyes took in the last words of this tome. “Whew!” was my next reaction.

This is the story of two magicians who attempt to bring magic back to England during the 1800s. It is firmly a fantasy book, taking place in an alternate reality of England. The prose are written in Jane Austen style.

Through and through, the author is true to Austen’s removed style, to the detriment of the story. I felt the same frustrations as I’ve experienced in the past with this style. The reader knows more than the characters and the characters take FOREVER to figure out what is going on and they never really understand it. All interactions are obtuse.

The book, while dragging on in length and style was still very immersive. I read much of this book while waiting for the train and I would often look up, expecting some magical event to occur just down the platform from me. I wanted the characters to figure things out. I cared what happened to them. I was uhappy when they didn’t live up to my epxpectations. And maybe that is my true problem with this book. The male characters all fall into the “evil” role and the femle characters are all under developed. There was no one to love and admire without question.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, to certain people but no to most. Because of the length, style and character traits of the “heros” this book is not for everyone. The portrayal of magic and mysticism would make it enjoyable for those who are already fantasy fans but it is not a conversion book.

I was surprised to learn, on the books own site, they are making it into a movie. It is a movie I would see.

I’m now ready for something ligther, something I don’t have to fight against. But first I plan to catch up with my back issues of Metropolis Magazine. That’s fun reading!


  1. I think she has to write a sequel, don’t you? All those characters to finish! The magician to rescue from his dark tower! I’m going to have my book group read it — we’ll see what they think.

    Comment by Haus — January 23, 2006 @ 1:00 am

  2. In a year or two I would be happy to read a sequel and find out how all the characters fair next.

    Comment by Marijka — January 25, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

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