Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

4.1 431
by Susanna Clarke, Portia Rosenberg

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"Centuries ago, when magic still existed in England, the greatest magician of them all was the Raven King. A human child brought up by fairies, the Raven King blended fairy wisdom and human reason to create English magic. Now, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, he is barely more than a legend, and England, with its mad King and its dashing poets, no longer… See more details below

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"Centuries ago, when magic still existed in England, the greatest magician of them all was the Raven King. A human child brought up by fairies, the Raven King blended fairy wisdom and human reason to create English magic. Now, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, he is barely more than a legend, and England, with its mad King and its dashing poets, no longer believes in practical magic." "Then the reclusive Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey appears and causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. News spreads of the return of magic to England and, persuaded that he must help the government in the war against Napoleon, Mr Norrell goes to London. There he meets a brilliant young magician and takes him as a pupil. Jonathan Strange is charming, rich and arrogant. Together, they dazzle the country with their feats." But the partnership soon turns to rivalry. Mr Norrell has never conquered his lifelong habits of secrecy, while Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous magic. He becomes fascinated by the shadowy figure of the Raven King, and his heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens, not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Charles Palliser

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.
Neil Gaiman

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.

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.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.
Baltimore Sun

An enthralling, unique read.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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.
National Post (Canada)

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.
USA Today on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

What kind of magic can make an 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, debut author Susanna Clarke is possessed by it.
The New York Times on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Clarke's imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty.
Entertainment Weekly on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Immense, intelligent, inventive…Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style.
The Washington Post 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.
four stars) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell 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.
Salon on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

The most sparkling literary debut of the year.
Harper's Bazaar on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

New York Post (four stars) 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.
Village Voice 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.
The Onion on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Gorgeous…A terrific, phenomenally ambitious book.
Booklist (starred review) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

A smashing success…History and fantasy form a beautiful partnership in this detailed, authentic, and heartfelt novel.
Toronto Globe and Mail 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.
Seattle Times on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Combines the wit of Jane Austen with the subterranean spookiness of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
San Francisco Chronicle on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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.
Denver Post on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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.

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.85(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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...




            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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