Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

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Overview

BOOK SENSE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A PEOPLE MAGAZINE "TOP TEN" BOOK

WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD

WINNER OF THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD

"Ravishing…Combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien."—Time

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different ...

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Overview

BOOK SENSE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A PEOPLE MAGAZINE "TOP TEN" BOOK

WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD

WINNER OF THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD

"Ravishing…Combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien."—Time

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

"What kind of magic can make an 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, debut author Susanna Clarke is possessed by it."—USA Today

"From beginning to end, a perfect pleasure."—Neil Gaiman

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
When Susanna Clarke set out to write her sensational first novel, she determined to write a book about magic that would keep readers from their coveted sleep. She has certainly succeeded. A hefty doorstop of a book, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has already drawn comparisons to works by Dickens, Austen, and the Harry Potter books. Set in early-19th-century England, Clarke's novel introduces readers to a group of magicians from whom the "magic" has departed. Enter Mr. Norrell, a misanthropic, book-hoarding magician who takes up a challenge to prove that magic still exists.

After Mr. Norrell succeeds at his ambitious endeavor, he takes on a pupil, the charismatic Jonathan Strange, and together they begin to restore the sorry state of English magic. But a rift opens between these two allies, leading them to turn their magic on each other, and a darker, more sinister magic begins to reveal itself.

Clarke's ambitious epic is packed with twists and turns, as she leads readers through mysterious doorways, down magical pathways, and into other worlds. Filled with quirky characters and eerie places, it's frightening, moving, and very often witty. In her stunningly original and accomplished first novel, Susanna Clarke has created a completely convincing "historical" account magic's role in changing the course of history -- a work chock-full of the most fun a "smart" book has ever contained. (Holiday 2004 Selection)

From the Publisher
"What kind of magic can make an 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, debut author Susanna Clarke is possessed by it."

USA Today on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Ravishing…A chimera of a novel that combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien...What really sets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell apart is its treatment of magic. Clarke's magic is a melancholy, macabre thing, confabulated out of snow and rain and mirrors and described with absolute realism ... Clarke has another rare faculty: she can depict evil ... [she] reaches down into fantasy's deep, dark, twisted roots, down into medieval history and the scary, Freudian fairy-tale stuff. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell reminds us that there's a reason fantasy endures: it's the language of our dreams. And our nightmares.'

Time

"Clarke's imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty."

The New York Times on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years. It's funny, moving, scary, otherworldly, practical and magical, a journey through light and shadow—a delight to read, both for the elegant and precise use of words, which Ms. Clarke deploys as wisely and dangerously as Wellington once deployed his troops, and for the vast sweep of the story, as tangled and twisting as old London streets or dark English woods. Closing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel after 800 pages, my only regret was that it wasn't twice the length.... From beginning to end, a perfect pleasure."

—Neil Gaiman, author of Anansi Boys, American Gods, and the Sandman series

"Immense, intelligent, inventive…Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style."

Entertainment Weekly on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Over the course of nearly 800 pages Clarke channels the world of Jane Austen, the Gothic tale, the Silver-Fork Society novel, military adventure à la Bernard Sharpe or Patrick O'Brian, romantic Byronism and Walter Scott's passion for the heroic Northern past. She orchestrates all these fictive elements consummately well…Many books are to be read, some are to be studied, and a few are meant to be lived in for weeks. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is of this last kind."

The Washington Post on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Combining folklore and fantasy with horror-story imagination, [Clarke] creates a Napoleonic-era England alive with the promise—and danger—of uncontrollable forces…Clarke's sober style keeps the fantasy grounded, and meticulous historical research brings the magical episodes to terrifying life."

People (Critic's choice, four stars) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"The most sparkling literary debut of the year."

Salon on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Mesmerizing."

Harper's Bazaar on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"This 800-page work of fantasy—think Harry Potter sprinkled with the dust of Tolkien and Alasdair Gray—posits an extraordinary alternative history of England where magic, fairies, spirits and enchantments were once part of everyday life...This incredible work of the imagination, which took Clarke more than 10 years to write, ends all too soon."

New York Post (four stars) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Here is a writer who remembers that true fairy tales carry a sting and the creatures themselves were never properly domesticated to the nursery. Her uncanny book is an object lesson in the pleasures—and risks—of enchantment."

Village Voice on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Gorgeous…A terrific, phenomenally ambitious book."

The Onion on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"An instant classic, one of the finest fantasies ever written."

Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Extraordinary…Will enchant readers of fantasy and of literary fiction alike."

Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"A smashing success…History and fantasy form a beautiful partnership in this detailed, authentic, and heartfelt novel."

Booklist (starred review) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Wonderful. At almost 800 pages, it is an immense, densely plotted story, peopled with a a vast cast of extremely well-drawn characters, filled with unexpected events, ancient prophesies,varied and exotic settings, and all manner of human and inhuman conflict, and it is built one splendid scene upon the next."

Toronto Globe and Mail on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell comes across as equal parts Jane Austen and Charles Dickens flavored with Rowling and Tolkien. It's inarguably one of the year's best and most original works."—National Post (Canada)

"Combines the wit of Jane Austen with the subterranean spookiness of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle."

Seattle Times on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"An enthralling, unique read."

Baltimore Sun

"Witty dialogue, cunning observations, and intriguing footnotes…[A] sweeping adventure full of telling details, mixing history and fantasy to create worlds of deep imagination that seem as real as our own."

San Francisco Chronicle on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"While Jonathan Strange is every bit as whimsical and playful as the Harry Potter books, it is also grave and upsetting, the very opposite of comforting children's entertainment…Clarke has delivered a book of universal truths and unexpectedly heartbreaking acuity."

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"Utterly enchanting. [Clarke's] union of historical fiction and fantasy is fresh, it is surprising, and it will appeal to those who want nothing more than to be carried away to a world crafted by a superb storyteller."

Denver Post on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

"Extraordinary…If Harry Potter is the kind of book that makes you want to be a kid again, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the kind of novel that will remind you that being an adult should be a whole lot more fun."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"I found it absolutely compelling. The narrative drive is irresistible and I could not stop reading until I had finished it. The narrator's tone is beautifully judged. It's full of wonderfully deadpan humour and its reticence leaves the reader to make up his or her mind about the characters. I loved all the invented scholarship and was fascinated by the mixture of historical realism and utterly fantastic events. I almost began to believe that there really was a tradition of 'English magic' that I had not heard about. The author captures the period and its literary conventions with complete conviction. And a large part of the fun is seeing how an early nineteenth century novel copes with the impact of magic. It's an astonishing achievement. I can't think of anything that is remotely like it."

—Charles Palliser, author of The Quincunx, on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

USA Today
"What kind of magic can make an 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, [Clarke] is possessed by it."
People
"Clarke's sober style keeps the fantasy grounded, and meticulous historical research brings the magical episodes to terrifying life."
Charles Palliser
"I found it absolutely compelling....It's an astonishing achievement. I can't think of anything that is remotely like it."
Neil Gaiman
"Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years....From beginning to end, a perfect pleasure."
Time
"Ravishing…A chimera of a novel that combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen."
Village Voice
"Her uncanny book is an object lesson in the pleasures—and risks—of enchantment."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Extraordinary."
Baltimore Sun
"An enthralling, unique read."
Booklist
"A smashing success…History and fantasy form a beautiful partnership in this detailed, authentic, and heartfelt novel."
Denver Post
"Utterly enchanting. [Clarke's] union of historical fiction and fantasy is fresh, it is surprising....a superb storyteller."
Entertainment Weekly
"Immense, intelligent, inventive…Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Clarke has delivered a book of universal truths and unexpectedly heartbreaking acuity."
Harper's Bazaar
"Mesmerizing."
National Post (Canada)
"Inarguably one of the year's best and most original works."
New York Post
"This incredible work of the imagination, which took Clarke more than 10 years to write, ends all too soon."
People
"Clarke's sober style keeps the fantasy grounded, and meticulous historical research brings the magical episodes to terrifying life."
Salon
"The most sparkling literary debut of the year."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Witty dialogue, cunning observations, and intriguing footnotes....create worlds of deep imagination that seem as real as our own."
Seattle Times
"Combines the wit of Jane Austen with the subterranean spookiness of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle."
The New York Times
"Clarke's imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty."
The Onion
"Gorgeous…A terrific, phenomenally ambitious book."
Toronto Globe and Mail
"Wonderful....built one splendid scene upon the next."
Entertainment Weekly
"Immense, intelligent, inventive. Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Extraordinary."
The New York Times
"Clarke's imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty."
People
"Clarke's sober style keeps the fantasy grounded, and meticulous historical research brings the magical episodes to terrifying life."
Toronto Globe and Mail
"Wonderful....built one splendid scene upon the next."
Booklist
"A smashing success. History and fantasy form a beautiful partnership in this detailed, authentic, and heartfelt novel."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Witty dialogue, cunning observations, and intriguing footnotes....create worlds of deep imagination that seem as real as our own."
Denver Post
"Utterly enchanting. [Clarke's] union of historical fiction and fantasy is fresh, it is surprising....a superb storyteller."
Seattle Times
"Combines the wit of Jane Austen with the subterranean spookiness of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle."
Baltimore Sun
"An enthralling, unique read."
New York Post
"This incredible work of the imagination, which took Clarke more than 10 years to write, ends all too soon."
Salon
"The most sparkling literary debut of the year."
Harper's Bazaar
"Mesmerizing."
The Onion
"Gorgeous. A terrific, phenomenally ambitious book."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Clarke has delivered a book of universal truths and unexpectedly heartbreaking acuity."
National Post (Canada)
"Inarguably one of the year's best and most original works."
Gregory Maguire
A reader more distractible than I am might yawn for 300 pages running and still discover several book-length stretches to enjoy. I never yawned. Clarke's imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty.
— The New York Times
Michael Dirda
So Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell may or may not be the finest English fantasy of the past 70 years. But it is still magnificent and original, and that should be enough for any of us. Right now all we really need to do is open to chapter one and start reading, with mounting excitement: "Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians. . . ."
— The Washington Post
The New Yorker
This vast début fantasy novel, cast somewhat in the Harry Potter mold, is set in early-nineteenth-century England, where two men, Gilbert Norrell and his pupil Jonathan Strange, revive the once-thriving practice of the dark arts. After aiding the British against Napoleon, the magicians fall out over interpretations of wizardly philosophy. Meanwhile, a malevolent fairy accidentally set loose by Norrell enchants, among others, Strange’s wife. Clarke’s ability to construct a fully imagined world—much of it explained in long, witty footnotes—is impressive, and there are some suspenseful moments. But her attempt to graft a fantasy narrative onto such historical realities as the Battle of Waterloo is more often awkward than clever, and the period dialogue is simply twee. Worse, the tension between the forces of good and evil—crucial in any magical tale—is surprisingly slack; the arch-villain is a cartoonish fop whose petulant misdeeds lack menace.
Edward Nawotka
It takes 100 pages for Clarke to establish her milieu, but most readers, once enchanted, will remain under her spell until the very last page.
— USA Today
Publishers Weekly
There may be no better marriage of talents than that of Clarke and Prebble. The former spins an enchanting, epic tale of English magic in the age of Napoleon, and the latter brings it to life-footnotes and all-with a full-bodied voice, skill and aplomb that rivals that of noted narrator Jim Dale. Set in a world where the study of theoretical magic is common, but the practice of it is unheard of, this sweeping narrative follows the exploits of England's only two practical magicians, the bookish Mr. Norrell and the affable Jonathan Strange, as they struggle to revive the country's magic in very different ways. Mr. Norrell is content to publish opaque, opinionated pieces on magic's uses and misuses, but Strange is fascinated by the legend and lore of the Raven King, the so-called father of English magic. The voices Prebble lends these two disparate characters nicely reflects their personalities-Norrell's voice is brittle and sometimes shrill, but Strange's is pleasant and ironic. As the two magicians labor together to defeat Napoleon and then separately to pursue their own ends, an elusive faerie known only as the "gentleman with the Thistledown hair" watches and schemes. Clarke's novel likely contains close to 100, if not more, characters, and Prebble juggles them all with ease. Although the heavy price of this audiobook may deter some listeners, there's no better way to experience the material than to hear it performed by such a consummate actor. Based on the Bloomsbury hardcover (Forecasts, July 12, 2004). (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
New York Times Book Review
"Clarke welcomes herself into an exalted company of British writers—not only, some might argue, Dickens and Austen, but also the fantasy legends Kenneth Grahame and George MacDonald—as well as contemporary writers like Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman."
Salon.com
"The most sparkling literary debut of the year…Susanna Clarke's magic is universal."
Christian Science Monitor
"Thoroughly enchanting…In a fantastically paced conclusion, the ominous horror of what's preying on England comes into focus, even as the setting shifts into the cloudy world of enchantment that Clarke captures with such haunting effect."
Washington Post
"Many books are to be read, some are to be studied, and a few are meant to be lived in for weeks. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is of this last kind...Magnificent and original."
four stars) People (Critic's choice
"Combining folklore and fantasy with horror-story imagination, [Clarke] creates a Napoleonic-era England alive with the promise—and danger—of uncontrollable forces…Clarke's sober style keeps the fantasy grounded, and meticulous historical research brings the magical episodes to terrifying life. This is a gorgeous book of unforgettable images."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765356154
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 8/1/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 1024
  • Sales rank: 88,148
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.67 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke lives in Cambridge, England. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is her first novel.

Biography

Susanna Clarke admits that her first novel took her more than 10 years to write -- "a crazy amount of time to spend on anything -- except building a cathedral, growing a garden or educating a child," she has said.

To be fair, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was obviously not a small undertaking, both literally and figuratively. For one thing, the book clocks in at 800 pages. For another, Clarke spent a good bit of time researching the history for her early nineteenth-century London tale about two magicians.

As a fantasy novel filled with historical detail and copious "footnotes" that further embellish her richly imagined world, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell had more riding on it than the average first novel. Clarke is being positioned as a writer who, like Neil Gaiman before her, brings a literary heft (not just in pages) and potential crossover appeal to a previously neglected genre.

The story is set centuries after the Raven King -- a human brought up by fairies who ruled the country with magic -- has passed into legend. Mr Norrell studies ancient lore and eventually gains fame as the only real sorcerer in the early 1800s England. When he encounters a young, dashing magician peer named Jonathan Strange and takes him on as a pupil, their styles clash and a rivalry develops.

"[The marketing push for Clarke's novel] is not so unusual for a big first novel," a New York Times writer observed. "But it is curious for a big first novel about dueling magicians that is uncompromisingly literary without being shy about taking the genre seriously."

Hmm... a thick book about magicians by an English author with "crossover hit" written all over it? The Harry Potter comparisons have already begun. Clarke's reaction? "I don't think there could ever be an adult Harry Potter," she says in a publisher's interview. "I think it's harder for adults to be enchanted -- it's hard for them to switch off their critical faculties and just be swept along by the story."

Clarke makes this enchantment possible by rooting her story in a very firm historical foundation, seamlessly drawing in the politics and culture of nineteenth-century London. She can be by turns witty and spellbinding, capable of creating breathtaking momentum in a scene. Clarke has a particular gift for making intangible, vague atmospheres quite sensate and vivid. The result is feeling as if you've wandered into a dark, mysterious castle that you can't bring yourself to leave.

One way Clarke eases suspension of the reader's disbelief is by adding not only historical detail but "magical" detail to make it seem more earth-bound. Rather than make magic something purely supernatural, she injects it with some amusing, workmanlike mundanity. When Strange is told his destiny to become a magician, he reacts, "I hope to be married soon and a life spent in dark woods surrounded by thieves and murderers would be inconvenient to say the least."

Clarke has said that her next book will be set in the same world has her first one -- and this time she hasn't got 10 years to spend on it. Fans shouldn't have to wait long to revisit Strange and Norrell's alluring world, and meet new characters.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Clarke:

"I met my partner, Colin Greenland, through my writing. He was co-tutor on a week's writing course that I went on in 1993. Colin and the other tutor asked all the students to write a short story before the course. I didn't want to write a short story -- I wanted to discuss my novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. So I wrote a short story about them. So that was the first thing Colin knew about me -- that short story. Then I went on the course and met him, and now we've been together 10+ years.

"People who've only seen black and white photos of me, think my hair might be blond. It's not -- it's very grey. I'm not sure what people have against grey. It's the colour of stones and moonlight. Rather cool, I think."

"I've seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Huge fan."

"I like hiking through Northern hills and valleys. I like white wine, British beer from microbreweries, other people's gardens (because I don't attend to my own), other people's dogs and cats and pigs (because I have none of my own), and other people's houses (always more interesting than my own). My favourite nail polish for toes is called India by Chanel (a pretty, slightly sparkly pink), my favourite character in Law and Order is Jack McCoy, and my favourite pizza is pepperoni and jalapeno chilis."

"I don't like broccoli or Bob Dylan or D. H. Lawrence or TV programmes about celebrities."

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    1. Hometown:
      Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 16, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

(takes place in Venice, after Strange and Norrell have parted ways. Drawlight, a servant of Mr Norrell’s has come with foul intentions, either to abduct or murder Strange. But Strange, obsessed with the Raven King, has other plans…)

 

            “I will show you,” said Strange, “and then you will understand. If you perform these three tasks, I shall take no revenge on you. I shall not harm you. Deliver these three messages and you may return to your night-hunts, to your devouring of men and women.”

            “Thank you! Thank you!” breathed Drawlight, gratefully, until a horrible realisation gripped him. “Three! But, sir, you only gave me two!”

            “Three messages,” said Strange, wearily. “You must deliver three messages.”

            “Yes, but you have not told me what the third is!”

            Strange made no reply. He turned away, muttering to himself.

            In spite of all his terror, Drawlight had a great desire to get hold of the magician and shake him. He might have done it too, if he thought it would do any good. Tears of self-pity began to trickle down his face. Now Strange would kill him for not performing the third task and it was not his fault.

            “Bring me a drink of water!” said Strange, suddenly returning.

            Drawlight looked around. In the middle of the Venetian square there was a well. He went over to it and found a horrible old iron cup attached to the stones by a length of rusting chain. He pushed aside the well-cover, drew up a pail of water and dipped the cup into the water. He hated touching it. Curiously, after everything that had happened to him that day it was the iron cup he hated the most. All of his life he had loved beautiful things, but now everything that surrounded him was horrible. It was the magicians’ fault. How he hated them!

“Sir? Lord magician?” he called out. “You will have to come here to drink.” He showed the iron chain by way of an explanation.

            Strange came forward, but he did not take the proffered cup. Instead he took a tiny phial out of his pocket and handed it to Drawlight. “Put six drops in the water,” he said.

            Drawlight took out the stopper. His hand was trembling so much that he feared he would pour the whole thing on the ground. Strange did not appear to notice; Drawlight shook in some drops.

            Strange took the cup and drank the water down. The cup fell from his hand. Drawlight was aware—he did not know how exactly—that Strange was changed. Against the starry sky the black shape of his figure sagged and his head drooped. Drawlight wondered if he were drunk. But how could a few drops of any thing make a man drunk? Besides he did not smell of strong liquor; he smelt like a man who had not washed himself or his linen for some weeks; and there was another smell too—one that had not been there a minute ago—a smell like old age and half a hundred cats.

            Drawlight had the strangest feeling. It was something he had felt before when magic was about to happen. Invisible doors seemed to be opening all around him; winds blew on him from far away, bringing scents of woods, moors and bogs. Images flew unbidden into his mind. The houses around him were no longer empty. He could see inside them as if the walls had been removed. Each dark room contained -- not a person exactly -- a Being, an Ancient Spirit. One contained a Fire; another a Stone; yet another a Shower of Rain; yet another a Flock of Birds; yet another a Hillside; yet another a Small Creature with Dark and Fiery Thoughts; and on and on.

            “What are they?” he whispered, in amazement. He realised that all the hairs on his head were standing on end as if he had been electrified. Then a new, different sensation took him: it was a sensation not unlike falling, and yet he remained standing. It was as if his mind had fallen down…

He thought he stood upon an English hillside. Rain was falling; it twisted in the air like grey ghosts. Rain fell upon him and he grew thin as rain. Rain washed away thought, washed away memory, all the good and the bad. He no longer knew his name. Everything was washed away like mud from a stone. Rain filled him up with thoughts and memories of its own. Silver lines of water covered the hillside, like intricate lace, like the veins of an arm. Forgetting that he was, or ever had been, a man, he became the lines of water. He fell into the earth with the rain.

 

*  *  *

 

He thought he lay beneath the earth, beneath England. Long ages passed; cold and rain seeped through him; stones shifted within him. In the Silence and the Dark he grew vast. He became the earth; he became England. A star looked down on him and spoke to him. A stone asked him a question and he answered it in its own language. A river curled at his side; hills budded beneath his fingers. He opened his mouth and breathed out Spring...

 

*  *  *

 

He thought he was pressed into a thicket in a dark wood in winter. The trees went on forever, dark pillars separated by thin, white slices of winter light. He looked down. Young saplings pierced him through and through; they grew up through his body, through his feet and hands. His eyelids would no longer close because twigs had grown up through them. Insects scuttled in and out of his ears; spiders built nests and webs in his mouth. He realised he had been entwined in the wood for years and years. He knew the wood and the wood knew him. There was no saying any longer what was wood and what was man.

            All was silent. Snow fell. He screamed...

 

Blackness.

 

            Like rising up from beneath dark waters, Drawlight came to himself. Who it was that released him—whether Strange, or the Wood, or England itself—he did not know, but he felt its contempt as it cast him back into his own mind. The Ancient Spirits withdrew from him. His thoughts and sensations shrank to those of a Man. He was dizzy and reeling from the memory of what he had endured. He examined his hands and rubbed the places on his body where the trees had pierced him. They seemed whole enough; oh, but they hurt! He whimpered and looked around for Strange.

            The magician was a little way off, crouching by a wall, muttering magic to himself. He struck the wall once; the stones bulged, changed shape, became a raven; the raven opened its wings and, with a loud caw, flew up towards the night sky. He struck the wall again: another raven emerged from the wall and flew away. Then another and another, and on and on, thick and fast they came until all the stars above were blotted out by black wings.

Strange raised his hand to strike again...

            “Lord magician,” gasped Drawlight. “You have not told me what the third message is.”

            Strange looked round. Without warning he seized Drawlight’s coat and pulled him close. Drawlight could feel Strange’s stinking breath on his face and for the first time he could see his face. Starlight shone on fierce, wild eyes, from which all humanity and reason had fled.

            “Tell Norrell I am coming!” hissed Strange. “Now, go!”

            Drawlight did not need to be told twice. He sped away through the darkness. Ravens seemed to pursue him. He could not see them, but he heard the beating of their wings and felt the currents in the air that those wings created. Halfway across a bridge he tumbled without warning into dazzling light. Instantly he was surrounded by the sound of birdsong and of people talking. Men and women were walking and talking and going about their everyday pursuits. Here was no terrible magic—only the everyday world—the wonderful, beautiful everyday world.

Drawlight’s clothes were still drenched in seawater and the weather was cruelly cold. He was in a part of the city he did not recognize. No one offered to help him and for a long time he walked about, lost and exhausted. Eventually he happened upon a square he knew and was able to make his way back to the little tavern where he rented a room. By the time he reached it, he was weak and shivering. He undressed and rinsed the salt from his body as best he could. Then he lay down on his little bed.

            For the next two days he lay in a fever. His dreams were unspeakable things, filled with Darkness, Magic and the Long, Cold Ages of the Earth. And all the time he slept he was filled with dread lest he wake to find himself under the earth or crucified by a winter wood.

            By the middle of the third day he was recovered enough to get up and go to the harbor. There he found an English ship bound for Portsmouth. He showed the captain the letters and papers Lascelles had given him, promising a large fee to the ship that bore him back to England and signed by two of the most famous bankers in Europe.

            By the fifth day he was on a ship bound for England.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 427 )
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(238)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 427 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

    19 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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 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 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!

    2 out of 3 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 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    Bookworm

    I absolutely love this book! Many people say it drags on, but I feel that it really captures each scene vividly. I love the desriptons and word choice the author has, I can really lose myself in this story. It combines magic, sarcasm, love, and mystery into a story set in old England.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 427 Customer Reviews

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