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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

20 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

It's Interesting, A Couple of These Reviews

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is not just a book about magic it's much more than that. As the story progresses we're compelled strangely by the slow but smoothly progressing story of this interesting novel in three parts. It is fueled namely by the tensions that bui...
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is not just a book about magic it's much more than that. As the story progresses we're compelled strangely by the slow but smoothly progressing story of this interesting novel in three parts. It is fueled namely by the tensions that build between Strange and Norrell, whose personalities are essentially polar opposites. In an only too human way Strange, we find, becomes so intent on eclipsing Norrell's magical talents that he even neglects his own wife. Rather than throw it in the reader's face, it views the history of the time: how women were treated (namely Strange's wife) comes into play here. Susanna Clark has handled her story with a finesse I don't see much in the literary world anymore, because she has this rare talent of hiding her themes underneath the story without entirely rushing the reader with them. It's the patience with which she builds her story that interested me so. This is what we need more of: a love for story telling, because when a work of fiction is approached in earnest with this type of enthusiasm the work transcends--like it should--mere escapism.

posted by Anonymous on August 22, 2006

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

A decidedly mixed bag...

I both enjoyed and was thoroughly frustrated by this book. Each chapter taken individually is an entertaining and well written piece, and so I can't say I was ever bored while reading it. The characters are quirky and interesting, the concepts at play are fun and inve...
I both enjoyed and was thoroughly frustrated by this book. Each chapter taken individually is an entertaining and well written piece, and so I can't say I was ever bored while reading it. The characters are quirky and interesting, the concepts at play are fun and inventive, and the narrative style contains a dry tongue-in-cheek humor that I loved. However, this book is over 800 pages long, which is fine, but long books need a sense of an overarching plot unfolding as you go, and sadly that is missing from this book. While I was generally entertained as I read, I was frustrated as I got to pages 300, 400, etc that the book just seemed to be rambling without going anywhere. When the book did begin to pull all the loose ends together, it happened abruptly and ended fairly quickly, relative to the hundreds of pages of loose set-up that preceded it. In the end, I'm glad I finished reading it, and the ending was satisfactory. But it took me about 5 months to read, mostly because the lack of plot made it easy to put down and didn't offer a strong incentive to pick it back up again. Memorable story and characters, but it drags. Recommended only to those with great patience and a love of mild British humor and social comedy.

posted by Anonymous on June 18, 2007

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2006

    It's Interesting, A Couple of These Reviews

    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is not just a book about magic it's much more than that. As the story progresses we're compelled strangely by the slow but smoothly progressing story of this interesting novel in three parts. It is fueled namely by the tensions that build between Strange and Norrell, whose personalities are essentially polar opposites. In an only too human way Strange, we find, becomes so intent on eclipsing Norrell's magical talents that he even neglects his own wife. Rather than throw it in the reader's face, it views the history of the time: how women were treated (namely Strange's wife) comes into play here. Susanna Clark has handled her story with a finesse I don't see much in the literary world anymore, because she has this rare talent of hiding her themes underneath the story without entirely rushing the reader with them. It's the patience with which she builds her story that interested me so. This is what we need more of: a love for story telling, because when a work of fiction is approached in earnest with this type of enthusiasm the work transcends--like it should--mere escapism.

    20 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2007

    A decidedly mixed bag...

    I both enjoyed and was thoroughly frustrated by this book. Each chapter taken individually is an entertaining and well written piece, and so I can't say I was ever bored while reading it. The characters are quirky and interesting, the concepts at play are fun and inventive, and the narrative style contains a dry tongue-in-cheek humor that I loved. However, this book is over 800 pages long, which is fine, but long books need a sense of an overarching plot unfolding as you go, and sadly that is missing from this book. While I was generally entertained as I read, I was frustrated as I got to pages 300, 400, etc that the book just seemed to be rambling without going anywhere. When the book did begin to pull all the loose ends together, it happened abruptly and ended fairly quickly, relative to the hundreds of pages of loose set-up that preceded it. In the end, I'm glad I finished reading it, and the ending was satisfactory. But it took me about 5 months to read, mostly because the lack of plot made it easy to put down and didn't offer a strong incentive to pick it back up again. Memorable story and characters, but it drags. Recommended only to those with great patience and a love of mild British humor and social comedy.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2007

    I'll keep trying

    If people don't stop comparing this to the Harry Potter series I am going to scream. It is NOTHING like them. Nor is it the 'adult Harry Potter' unless he has become exceedingly dull and self-centered. I stopped at about page 350, but as I have only ever left 2 books unread out of thousands happily completed 'Great Expectations and some sci-fi book that was unbelievably depressing', I will try to get back into it. I am not saying there are not interesting aspects and very detailed descriptions of some events, but I mainly kept reading because I thought that at some point it would gel. Please, oh please make it worth all the glowing reviews. I was so excited for a long, interesting, well-written book and am so sad that it has thus far only been one of those. I was reading it while standing in line at a store and the woman behind me said 'Um, sorry to interrupt, but what do you think of that book? I'm reading it and you are further into it than I am so I am wondering if it gets more interesting further in?' I was unhappy to tell her that at p. 325 nothing had grabbed me yet except a supreme annoyance with reviewers. Then I thought that maybe they were all playing a joke--they waded through it and now they want everyone else to have to as well. It's a great conspiracy perhaps, but so far, not a great story.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    In one sentence; this was possibly the most boring book I have e

    In one sentence; this was possibly the most boring book I have ever read. Over 200 pages in and I was still waiting for something to happen that didn't involve a two page description of someone buttering their scone and tying a cravat or some mindless banter about social status and family lineage. The entire book employs an absolutely overwrought attempt at mimicking some early 19th century conversational english that was more than unnerving. I understand the snooty highbrow nature of this endeavor, but you need some kind of story to pull it off. Dozens and dozens of pages of nothing but droll meandering pre-Victorian parlor chat told in some made-up archaic vernacular does not constitute a story I want to immerse myself in. Finally, the use of footnotes that were longer than a page was another tooth grinding annoyance. Its a STORY; not a factual documentary written 200 years ago.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved it

    This was a great read. The writing is beautiful, the story wonderful. I can't wait for the next book to come out.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    It's like Jane Austen decided to write fantasy

    This definitely isn't your typical fantasy novel. Readers who only like the "swords and sorcery" fantasy sub-genre will hate it. This book feels like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen decided to collaborate on a fantasy novel after reading "On Fairy Stories" by Tolkien, "That Hideous Strength" by Lewis, and the "Discworld" novel "Sourcery" by Terry Pratchett.

    Most of it is set in England during the Napoleonic wars. There are some elements of alternate history as characters include real people like King George III, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Duke of Wellington. However, in Clarke's world, England has a grand history of magic and dealings with fairies. At the point where the book picks up, no one has actually practiced magic or had dealings with fairies for at least a couple hundred years . . . until Mr. Norrell shows up and, later, Jonathan Strange.

    Like the works of Austen or Dickens, the story is more character-focused than plot-driven. It kind of meanders its way (with occasional flurries of action or sudden surprises) through about 10 years as the two magicians seek to recover and restore English magic. The language is a bit old-fashioned, but with a very light tone and some dry/deadpan humor. There are lots of little "scholarly" footnotes citing (invented) sources and giving little snippets of "historical" occurences (usually involving fairies) that help give the book a feeling of depth.

    Despite the light tone, much of the book is dark and gothic. The fairies in the book are not the cutesy-Tinkerbell-Disney fairies who are tiny, mischievous-but-generally-good people with pretty little wings. They are the older version of fairies from English/Norse folklore . . . not necessarily small, nice, or sane (by human standards) and fond of abducting any human who strikes their fancy or strays into places they should not. Add to all this a prophecy of the "Raven King" (the founder of English magic who once ruled Northern England and will someday return) and you've got yourself an amazing fairy tale!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Masterfull

    Unique blend of fantasy and magic in it's type of era. I love the characters, as they are all very comfortable to me. From the first few chapters, I was so impressed with Mr. norrells character. Susanna has done a brilliant job with this story, i love all the footnotes and the sometimes lengthly details and wordings, she has incorporated. Most books leave alot of things unsaid or unanswered, But this book has no such dissapointments. I read this book toward winter which gave it that extra edge to me. A book to read by the fire and get lost in. A huge thank you to Susanna Clarke for a wonderfull and witty, RARE treat.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    YAWNNNNNN

    Yawn........I know i'm a little late too the party, but wow, incredible slow and filled with annoyingingly detailed....well.....nothing.....don't waste your money

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    For Book Lovers

    I adore this book. It's incredibly well written, taking the best styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and blending them into a seamless tapestry of literary wonder. It is delightful to read and I found myself throughout my days at work looking forward to when I could get home and crack it open. This book is subtle and doesn't pander. There aren't huge emotional moments or action scenes, so casual readers will probably not enjoy it, but in my opinion that's the beauty of this book- the strength is in each page, not the climax or the ending. Susanna Clarke has pulled off a masterpiece her first time out, and has done it

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2008

    An amazing read for the book lover, but will be lost to the casual reader.

    I adore this book. It's incredibly well written, taking the best styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and blending them into a seamless tapestry of literary wonder. It is delightful to read and I found myself throughout my days at work looking forward to when I could get home and crack it open. This book is subtle and doesn't pander. There aren't huge emotional moments or action scenes, so casual readers will probably not enjoy it, but in my opinion that's the beauty of this book- the strength is in each page, not the climax or the ending. Susanna Clarke has pulled off a masterpiece her first time out, and has done it spectacularly!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2009

    Great but wordy

    The story is interesting and her characters are great. I love how everyone is kind of intertwined and you think someone appears just once but they come up again later. The humor in this book is subtle and funny in the best way.

    My only problem is that the book is crazy long. I wish she would have cut it down a lot. I'm not saying she should have taken out scenes (I expected Strange in the Peninsula to be boring but on the contrary it was amusing). But perhaps she could have been more concise. I know it's stupid to ask for less without being able to pinpoint what to shave off, but it was really annoying how long the book was. I've read and enjoyed longer books but the difference is here the length doesn't seem very necessary. Then again, this book is written in an older style (deliberate, as it was published in 04) so maybe I'm not in position to complain.

    In any case, this book is a great read but it took me a while to finish because it's so wordy I lost interest frequently. However if you're not bothered by the length (wordy and very detailed with lots of footnotes, though they can be very amusing), then PICK THIS UP because seriously, the magic, plot, characters, humor, and originality are really great.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Dickens as written by Lovecraft

    That's the easiest way to describe this massive tome by first-time novelist Susanna Clarke. And it is massive, coming in at just under 800 pages. <BR/><BR/>The plot is far too complex to go into here, and it has been done by other reviewers before me. But this novel has all the ingredients of a Dickens story - a noble hero (although I will admit that Clarke's definition of "noble" is somewhat at odds with Mr Dickens'), a damsel of pure heart in thrall to a man of evil (here there are actually two such ladies, and owing to the subject matter the evil does not reside in a man), and interesting supporting characters whose names describe their personalities to a T. <BR/><BR/>Reviews that I have read of this book, by both professional reviewers and others, have described this book as an adult "Harry Potter". It is nothing of the kind. In fact, although the general subject of both this book and JK Rowling's series are the same, to compare these two is to compare apples and oranges. <BR/><BR/>That is not to say, however, that "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" is a bad book. Far from it, but you should be prepared to read it from a completely different viewpoint than you would a "Harry Potter" novel.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2007

    Amazing once you're in it

    As many have commented, the first 100 pages are a bit of a slog, partially due to the language. This is a very 'English' book. The phrases, the sentence structure...it all has a certain formality to it. It took me the first several chapters to even begin to grasp that aspect of its' style. As a 30-ish american, i had tried to read this several times before, each time getting mired in the phrasing (I have the same problem with Tolkien, actually. But not with Lovecraft. Go figure). The solution, for me at least, was Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. 3000+ pages of 17th & 18th-century dialogue and formal English writing, filtered through the sensibilities of a smart-aleck american author whose style I was already familiar with and enjoyed. Worked a treat. Once I was into the world created in 'Strange & Norrell', I could not leave. The depth of her wholly fabricated magical history of England is absolutely breathtaking, with all the wonder and horror of bona fide folk history and myth. I did find the villain absolutely terrifying, because beneath the foppish persona, there was nothing remotely human, no morality whatsoever. I'm a sucker for grand world-building(Dark Tower series, George RR Martin's 'Song of Ice & Fire' series, any number of well-written but rarely-played RPGs, etc), and she pulled it off wonderfully. For most american readers, this is a book that will require time and real effort to digest, but with a beautiful and rewarding payoff for those who do so.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2007

    Settle yourself down for a long vacation!!

    I had to first get used to the writing style, like I did with Dickens. Then, I did not hurry, I took my phone off the hook ' remember you can do this!' and loved my long vacation in this place, time and story. I now realize why I don't like short stories. When I have gotten settled and know the characters, the thing ends. Surely do recommend it as a winter's read. I read it last winter, and it seemed to go with the cold weather, being covered with quilts and drinking hot tea!! Cheers!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2007

    Utterly Spectacular

    From the very first page, Clarke's novel is nothing short of masterly. There may be a couple of spots where the basic plot is forgotten, but this is made up for by her witty humour and insightful musings. In fact the so-called lapses give the book a sense of reality, as if in fact life did go on as normal during the more than decade of the story's span. And what a glorious story it is! My favorite aspect of the novel is the complicated relationships between the characters. That is one important element that I believe is missing in a way from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell probably has the most character development I've ever seen in a novel of its genre. Overall an astonishing read, and a book that I shall read again in the future.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2014

    Not for everyone but perfect for some

    If you want fast and action packed tales of war and battle then this is not your book. But if you want a book steeped in the misty lands of a slightly-off19th century England where magic held sway in the not too distant past, then look no further! It's slow but deliberate, and one of my new favorite books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2013

    A unique and well-written book!

    If you care for the old english way of writing or magic or both you might enjoy this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2013

    Pretty decent

    I've read this book a few times and I still enjoy it!!! It can be a tad long winded at times but I've found many of this genre are that way. Its a wonderful book to sit down and savor.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    This is great reading if you enjoy history, myths and magic in a European setting.

    I read this book a year or so after it was published, and the memory and tone of the book stayed with me, although I couldn't remember the Author's name, nor the title.

    It bothered me so much, I began searching for the book to read again this last year. I finally came across the Title by accident, and bought the book again.

    I was hoping to find it as a Nook Book or an audio book as it was so enjoyable I could barely put it down the first time. I am now waiting to have an uninterrupted period of time to relish the book one more time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    No No No

    A portion of my frontal lobe melted as I read the first 100 pages. It must be an intentional effect on the part of the author. LETHALLY BORING!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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