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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell [Paperback]

Susanna Clarke , Portia Rosenberg , Neil Gaiman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
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Book Description

September 2009

The international bestseller, reissued with a striking new illustrated cover and introduction by Neil Gaiman.

In the midst of the Napoleonic Wars in 1806, most people believe magic to have long since disappeared from England – until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his powers and becomes an overnight celebrity. Another practicing magician then emerges: the young and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s pupil, and the two join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wild, most perilous forms of magic, and he soon risks sacrificing not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything else he holds dear. Susanna Clarke's brilliant first novel is an utterly compelling epic tale of nineteenth-century England and the two magicians who, first as teacher and pupil and then as rivals, emerge to change its history.

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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
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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Format:Mass Market Paperback
Although she is the author of several short stories, "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" is Susanna Clarke's debut novel. Set in England in the early nineteenth century, it was longlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award.

The book opens in late 1806 and charts the efforts of two men to re-establish magic in England. Of the title characters, Gilbert Norrell is introduced first. A 'gentleman', Norrell has seemingly devoted his life to the study of magic. He has an extensive library at his home (Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire) - so extensive, in fact, that very few others possess any books of value on the subject. While there are many 'theoretical' magicians throughout England - the Learned Society of York Magicians, for example - Norrell is the country's first practising magician in over two centuries. He deludes himself that he wants nothing more that the restoration of English Magic - in reality, he is a small, petty and vain man who really wants to be England's only magician. The early pages cover his meeting with two members of the York Society - Mr. Segundus and Mr. Honeyfoot - and his efforts to close the Society down. This final nail in their coffin comes when he casts a spell that makes the statues in York Cathedral 'come alive' they move and speak, telling all they have seen over the years. Shortly afterwards, following the advice of his servant Childermass, Norrell moves to London - here, he hopes to win greater influence. However, in convincing the government and military of his worth, he resorts to magic he would rather not use : he seeks help from a gentleman with thistle-down hair.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Different and odd, yet interesting kind of story March 6 2006
By Nikki
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
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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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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