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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel [Mass Market Paperback]

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

Aug. 1 2006
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.

Time Magazine #1 Book of the Year « Book Sense Book of the Year « People Top Ten Books of the Year « Winner of the Hugo Award « A New York Times Notable Book of the Year « Salon.com Top Ten of 2004 «Winner of the World Fantasy Award « Nancy Pearl's Top 12 Books of 2004 « Washington Post Book World's Best of 2004 « Christian Science Monitor Best Fiction 2004 « San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of 2004 « Winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel « Chicago Tribune Best of 2004 « Seattle Times 25 Best Books of 2004 « Atlanta Journal-Constitution Top 12 Books of 2004 « Village Voice "Top Shelf" « Raleigh News & Observer Best of 2004 « Rocky Mountain News critics' favorites of 2004 « Kansas City Star 100 Newsworthy Books of 2004 « Fort Worth Star-Telegram 10 Best Books of 2004 « Hartford Courant Best Books of 2004

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel + A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five
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Product Description

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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3.0 out of 5 stars Different and odd, yet interesting kind of story March 6 2006
By Nikki
Format:Paperback
I actually would rate this more at 3 1/2 stars if I could. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an interesting trilogy, where magic is used practically, and magicians aren't commonly found in London.
The story (or books) start out following the quiet character of Mr Norrell, a man claiming to be the only true magician of England. He quickly moves to London and starts moving up his fame, despite his uncharming characteristics, where people where expecting an amazing man. Time goes on, and eventually a new character comes into play, Jonathan Strange. Strange is a more dashing fellow, one whom the public loves over Mr Norrell. He becomes Mr Norrell's apprentice, and soon a competitor for fame.
These are the two main characters of course, but the books envelope a rich variety of people (which can be hard to keep track of at first!). There are also points where there are a few plots going on at once, which the book will switch between. These plots intertwine with each other at times, so make sure to pay attention!
I found that the books could be strange or hard to read sometimes, not because of the level, but because of the way they are written. Also, at some points there seems to be no plot at all, but you just have to keep going. The footnotes can be interesting to read, but can go on for a few pages, which is distracting. You can skip over them and it doesn't really matter.
These are good books, fun to read every once in a while. I think they are the kind of story where you will either like it or hate it though. If you're looking to get away from typical or predictable books, this is what you are probably looking for!
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5.0 out of 5 stars English Magic July 17 2005
By pipking
Format:Paperback
The book is about two 19th century magicians who attempt to return magic to England in a time of war.
Four points:
1. Clarke's language can be alienating at first to one expecting clipped, modern prose. You get over it - rather, you get into it.
2. It is a well-researched book. Enough to fake it well. The footnotes I found distracting I skipped - reading them or not didn't effect the tangiblity of the world; they are a trick, but not an unpleasant one. Real historical characters wandered around the plot and are a good fit. Felt accurate, if not real.
3. The book builds slowly, like falling snow. There's a lot of magic, but no 'set-pieces' - Clarke's success and failure comes from the slow integration of magic into the mannered comedy of her 19th century England. It never feels forced; it never explodes.
4. There is sufficient resolution in that we know what each of the main characters will be doing at the start of the next story. It's the strangest thing - for so big a book to leave you wanting more. Magic indeed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvelous Book! July 2 2005
Format:Paperback
I just finished reading this book. To my great delight, it's neither "Harry Potter for adults," nor a Lord of the Rings clone.
Then what is it? It's a beautifully written, witty, and enchanting tale. It's full of deep and interesting characters, it's full of imaginative little anecdotes and fables, and it's full of adventure. There is more imagination and detail in this book than could possibly fit within its 800 pages, and so I can only suspect that it has been enhanced by the subtle use of magic that its main characters are more than capable of. So no, it isn't Harry-Potter-like, or Tolkien-like.
However, if you dislike footnotes, be warned, for there are many of them, and they can reach impressive lengths. Similarly, if your attention span is only a couple of seconds long, then maybe Harry Potter is more suitable to your taste: In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, not every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. It is a compliment to the author's skill that no such cheap tricks are needed, and that the story is engaging and involving despite its (initially) leisurely pace.
This book is hyped up to be THE book of the year (or last year), and having read it, I am quite willing to believe it. Don't hesitate to pick up a copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In addition to this book, I recommend another oddly entertaining (but quite different) novel, The Losers Club: Complete Restored Edition by Richard Perez.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stange but good June 27 2005
Format:Paperback
The quality of writing in this novel is astronomically wonderful. Not being a fan of the fantasy genre, yet at the same time adoring THE LORD OF THE RINGS, I approached this book with some caution. Well, I've cast it away completely. The characters are entrancing, the plot is superb, and the language is beautiful. This book came highly recommended to our book club, along with McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE-both of which we also adored, and so without hesitation we dove right into JONATHAN STRANGE. It's the early 19th century, in England. The Napoleanic wars threaten England, but that's not the only struggle going on. Magic is all but dead in England; the so-called magicians don't actually want to handle it, but want to leave it to old books and stories. Once the English magicians were powerful and respected, but now they just write boring essays about magic. Except for Mr. Norrell, a cautious little Yorkshire man who taught himself how to do magic. However, things take a twist when he gives his help in the battle against Napolean -- a new magician enters the scene, the enthusiastic and charming Jonathan Strange. The two magicians begin to work together, but things begin to go awry when Mr. Norrell realizes that Jonathan is attracted to all magic -- including the more dangerous varieties. He's increasingly fascinated by the legend of the Raven King, a changeling child who ruled Faerie and Earth... Historical fantasies have rarely been as detailed and rich as this one -- usually either the "historic" or the "fantasy" is abused. Often the best authors can do is write alternate universe stories where America lost the Revolution, the Roman Empire never fell, and so on. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘Two magicians shall appear in England…’
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. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor paperback printing mars decent book
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. Read more
Published 13 months ago by R. Henderson
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 17 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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Flight into Another World!
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... Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2008 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
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
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