Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

I'll bet you were wondering when I would ever get finished with this book. I'll have to beg your forgiveness because this book was 846 pages long and jam packed with content! The book was really really good though, so it was worth the time spent.

This book is definitely one of my new favorites. It is set in England in the 1800s, but in an England where magic has been prevalent throughout its history, but at present dormant. Enter Gilbert Norrell-a very learned magician who learned his craft from buying up all the available books on magic in the land. He is very content to be the world's only practicing magician. But then Jonathan Strange appears. He is drawn to magic, and then to Mr. Norrell who has become the epicenter of English magic. The two are quite a pair of opposites, but their shared love of learning and magic unite them. They begin to aid England in the Napoleonic wars with their skills and are perceived as England's heroes. But a rather foolish pact That Mr. Norrell made with a Fairy will come back to bite both of them. Despite their differences they will need each other to fix things and fulfill a prophecy to bring English magic back to its former strength.

What a great book. Even though it is over 800 pages it was engaging from start to finish. Some parts read like a book right out of Jane Austen's era, but with a twist of magic thrown in for spice. The footnotes that explain references to ancient magical history are also very engaging. This is a wonderful and unique undertaking, and I count Clarke among some of my favorite novelists. I look forward to reading more from this wonderful author.

About the Author:Susanna Clarke is a British author. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is her debut novel, which is a Hugo Award-winning alternate history. Clarke began Jonathan Strange in 1993 and worked on it during her spare time while editing cookbooks for Simon and Schuster. For the next decade, she published short stories from the Strange universe, but it was not until 2003 that Bloomsbury bought her manuscript and began work on its publication. The novel became a bestseller. Two years later, she published a collection of her short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (2006). Both Clarke's novel and her short stories are set in a magical England and written in a pastiche of the styles of nineteenth-century writers such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. While Strange focuses on the relationship of two men, Jonathan Strange and Gilbert Norrell, the stories in Ladies focus on the power women gain through magic.

If you find this interesting, also check out:
Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Both are excellent novels that really paint the entire history of the magical world around the story.

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