Monday, June 16, 2008

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A review

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

I am totally in awe of Susanna Clarke. Seriously. First she created a system of magic which she stuck to consistently. Then she created an entire history and scholarship for that magic. Then she integrated the history, scholarship, and practice into real history. And her story was engaging and her characters well-drawn. All in flawless Regency language. For 782 pages. Wow. I am really, really in awe. And surprised that she was able to find a publisher.

English magic has died out, or so everyone thinks. Those who call themselves magicians are theoretical magicians only, scholars of magic, rather than practitioners. It is a shock for everyone then, when a gentleman named Gilbert Norrell demonstrates undoubtable magical ability. Eventually he takes a pupil named Jonathan Strange, whose approach is as different from Mr. Norrell’s as night from day. This book tells their story.

This book honestly reads like a biography rather than a work of fiction. There are copious footnotes, telling stories and referring to other works as if they actually existed. Clarke has the great gift of making you believe, just for a while, that there actually was such a history and story as the one she is telling.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes fantasy and Regency writing.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

I have to admit, I slogged, I read, I slogged some more. While I finished, I certainly didn't enjoy it.

I'm so glad you did!