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Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell [Paperback]

Susanna Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 20 2005
Enter the dazzling world of nineteenth century magicians fighting Napoleon's advancing army - and fighting between themselves

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me ...

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.


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From Publishers Weekly

The drawing room social comedies of early 19th-century Britain are infused with the powerful forces of English folklore and fantasy in this extraordinary novel of two magicians who attempt to restore English magic in the age of Napoleon. In Clarke's world, gentlemen scholars pore over the magical history of England, which is dominated by the Raven King, a human who mastered magic from the lands of faerie. The study is purely theoretical until Mr. Norrell, a reclusive, mistrustful bookworm, reveals that he is capable of producing magic and becomes the toast of London society, while an impetuous young aristocrat named Jonathan Strange tumbles into the practice, too, and finds himself quickly mastering it. Though irritated by the reticent Norrell, Strange becomes the magician's first pupil, and the British government is soon using their skills. Mr. Strange serves under Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars (in a series of wonderful historical scenes), but afterward the younger magician finds himself unable to accept Norrell's restrictive views of magic's proper place and sets out to create a new age of magic by himself. Clarke manages to portray magic as both a believably complex and tedious labor, and an eerie world of signs and wonders where every object may have secret meaning. London politics and talking stones are portrayed with equal realism and seem indisputably part of the same England, as signs indicate that the Raven King may return. The chock-full, old-fashioned narrative (supplemented with deft footnotes to fill in the ignorant reader on incidents in magical history) may seem a bit stiff and mannered at first, but immersion in the mesmerizing story reveals its intimacy, humor and insight, and will enchant readers of fantasy and literary fiction alike.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School - This delightful first novel exerts a strong and seductive pull on readers who might otherwise balk at its length. Like Philip Pullman's work, it is dark, deep, and challenging. It compares dead-on with Jane Austen's novels, and YAs who have underappreciated her wit may find it delicious when applied to magicians. Clarke even tosses in a bit of Dickens and Hardy - with great characterization, subplots, and a sense of fate bearing down hard on us. At stake is the future of English magic, which has nearly dwindled to all theory by the early 1800s, after centuries of prominence. When the book opens, only the reclusive and jealous Gilbert Norrell is practicing. Enter Jonathan Strange, a natural who has never studied magic formally. Norrell resents, then adopts Strange as a pupil whose growth he insists on controlling until the two come to the impasse that nearly leads them to destroy one another. Strange champions the 12th century's "Raven King" as the greatest magician in English history and hopes to summon him from Faerie, an alternate world. Norrell is determined to erase both from English memory - to hide the fact that he himself made a bargain with a fairy that has cost three people their lives, though their hearts go on dismally beating. Expertly written and imagined, the book is a feast for fans of fantasy, historical novels, or simply fabulously engrossing reads. - Emily Lloyd, formerly at Rehoboth Beach Public Library, DE
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a delightfully BIG story! Sept. 4 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I truly did not expect to like this book--this big, this enormous, intimidating book. My friends in my book club voted to read it (I didn't), but they were right and I was wrong. And to accept defeat, I announce with a shout: This is one seductively brilliant, imaginative novel! Clarke resurrects nineteenth century England with meticulous skill, then casts over it a Harry Potter-like magical aura. It has to be read to be believed. It all sounds foolish, I know. I was where you are now, smirking, shaking my head, saying, Right, right! But if you have good liberal-minded friends like I do, then you'll see. You'll see.
Other recommended books from my book club: AMAGANSETT by Mill and A SECRET WORD by Paddock
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4.0 out of 5 stars ‘Two magicians shall appear in England…’ Jan. 5 2014
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, magic no longer seems to be practiced in England. The greatest magician of all - the Raven King - is barely more than a legend. A society of magicians meets in York on the third Wednesday of each month, writing and reading papers on the history of English magic. But this changes when Mr Gilbert Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey is drawn out of seclusion by the society. Norrell is persuaded that he must help the government in the war against Napoleon, and travels to London where he meets the young magician Jonathan Strange.

`"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might, "he admitted, "but a gentleman never could."'

As partners and rivals, Norrell and Strange shape some of the events of the early nineteenth century. They both assist the British war effort on the continent, and influence Lord Byron's poetry. But while they both see a magical renaissance as the only way to arrest the decline of the world, they are not agreed on the best way to effect this. Should the past be buried, or recreated? Should knowledge be shared, or withheld? Mr Norrell is inclined to secrecy, while Jonathan Strange is attracted to risk. And then there is the overlay of the faerie world to contend with and to try to make sense of.

Of the two main characters, Jonathan Strange is more outgoing and likeable. Norrell is both secretive and prone to manipulating events and people. But it's a long and perilous journey through the book for both Norrell and Strange, and those around them. In addition to historical figures including King George III, Wellington and Lord Byron there is an impressive cast of characters - some more likeable than others.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Poor paperback printing mars decent book Aug. 18 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
The content of this book was a bit slow to get into, but I was willing to give it a go except readability was bogged down by poor printing in paperback edition. By the time I hit page 200 even though the plot was picking up, enough was enough. Main problem is that some pages are printed off centre, so that the text on the page bleeds into the spine of the book. If you're someone who cranks your books flat and breaks the spine doing so, you might be fine, but for the average paperback reader who treats their books with care, there are some pages that you won't be able to read without doing so because the ends of each sentence disappear into the crevice of the spine. Additionally, some pages are printed in a faint ink while others are dark enough (standard) and no trouble. Those issues combined with small-ish font made the paperback near impossible to read in low light conditions aka even with a bedside lamp. If you are interested in the title I suggest picking it up in hardcover or as Kindle/e-reader version. I exchanged my first paperback with Amazon but the replacement they sent was no better and had the same issues - avoid the paperback version in my opinion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another helping please Feb. 7 2005
Format:Paperback
First, let me start by saying that JONATHAN STRANGE is not an easy read; the novel is long, the book is heavy and not easy to carry around. But that is all the bad I can say about it. If you like history, like stories about magic, like to read, this book is for you. The story is so compelling, the way Clarke take history and blends it with her story, the intricacies of the characters, and the way it was written makes not want to put the book down. Having read other stories of Magic, including J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter Series with my kids (which I love, by the way), this book surprised me and made me think and say: finally somebody thought about us who like to read fantasy books and are adults. Finally something that can entertain us without to be thinking as kids. This book to me was wonderful! Must also recommend another great book, though it is MUCH shorter and compact-still, a great read, and that is Jackson T. McCrae's THE CHILDREN'S CORNER, which is a fantastic collection of stories that entertains and touches the soul.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Flight into Another World! Aug. 10 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one masterpiece of modern fiction that I recommend young and old alike to read. It certainly exceeds anything the Harry Potter series has to say about the realm of ancient magic as it impinges on the affairs of the modern state. There is a virtual cornucopia of serious history interwoven with delightful, off-the-wall fiction to create a world that will certainly dazzle the senses and make you laugh at the other side of life. I started out listening to the audio rendition and ended up buying the book because it was so good. The story is both simple and complex in nature. It is the late eighteenth century England, and the magical power of sorcerers and the clandestine activities of fairies that once dominated the land centuries before have now fallen silent. Sure, there are thousands of books full of spells and enchantments stored away in dusty, cobwebbed old libraries throughout the kingdom, but who can understand them? The true practice of magic has fallen to a lot of charlatans and quacks who know little of the true power of the ancient formulas. That is until Mr. Norrell, an obscure magician from backwoods England steps forward to breathe new life into the profession and answer to an ancient prophecy that true magic would eventually return to save the kingdom. With the help of a young upstart named Jonathan Strange, Norrell undertakes an assignment to save the British Empire from that pestiferous Napoleon. This is where the story really takes off, and the reader gets to see the fabulous and not-so-fabulous goings-on in the world of magic happen before their very eyes. Norrell, the keeper of the secrets, is willing to take on Strange as his apprentice only if he obeys the master's instructions. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Dark Drama
the writing is beautiful, for it being Clarke's first book, it is brilliant!
it is dark drama focusing on the characters and their depth, intricacy in the story was never... Read more
Published 16 months ago by cellooommen_2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Unprecedented and unrepeatable
This novel fits into the "fantasy" genre but the sort of expectations that sets won't help you very much. There's definitely some flashback to Victorian novel here. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2012 by Rodge
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Book
Some of my other favourite books are "The Catcher in the Rye", "The Lord of the Rings" and "Lord of the Flies". Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2011 by David Michael Sidhu
4.0 out of 5 stars Very original tale about magic
This is a very enjoyable novel as it provides a very innovative view on magic. The author conceived a tale where two individuals undertake to bring magic back to England in the... Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2010 by S. Lavigne
5.0 out of 5 stars A Parallel Universe
I hesitate to review this book because I do not have the capacity with words that Clarke has to do justice in describing one of the best book I have read in possibly a decade. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2009 by Robert Knetsch
4.0 out of 5 stars A rare gem
I came across this by chance, opened it up, and was immediately swept away. I don't believe I've ever read anything like it - many of the elements are common to many different... Read more
Published on Dec 26 2008 by Jack Blatant
4.0 out of 5 stars Something rich and strange
Most fantasy strikes for the bad ripoffs of Tolkien, or other well-known (though not always great) authors. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2008 by E. A Solinas
4.0 out of 5 stars Something rich and Strange
Most fantasy strikes for the bad ripoffs of Tolkien, or other well-known (though not always great) authors. Read more
Published on Oct. 12 2007 by E. A Solinas
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea...
I've read the first few chapters and this book and been quite unimpressed. After reading some reviews online and learning that the ending is generally found to be unsatisfying, I... Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2007 by CanadianMother
4.0 out of 5 stars Something strange
Susanna Clarke dazzles in a subtle way in her debut novel, "Jonathan Clarke & Mr. Norrell," a startlingly original fantasy. No Dungeons & Dragons or Tolkien ripoffs here. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2007 by E. A Solinas
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