Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Paperback – Sep 29 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD 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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Top Customer Reviews
Other recommended books from my book club: AMAGANSETT by Mill and A SECRET WORD by Paddock
But Susanna Clarke dazzles in a subtle way in her debut novel, "Jonathan Clarke & Mr. Norrell," a sprawling opus that took a decade to write. Think if Jane Austen had written fantasy about feuding magicians, and you'll have a pretty good idea of how this reads.
It's the early 19th century, in England. The Napoleonic 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.
But Susanna Clarke shatters that with her richly-realized look at 19th-century Britain, with unique magic and a slight mythologic twist.Read more ›
I actually study 19th century England for my doctorate and in doing so I have to read works from that period. What I find amazing is that Clarke is able to skilfully mimic the diction and way of speaking that was common at the time. Its as if she cam from some kind of parallel universe to give us a report on what events occurred in her world. And the footnotes add a delightful sense of verisimilitude!
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Most recent customer reviews
This book is awesome absolutely love the story and the characters. A recommendation for anyone who likes fantasy novels.Published 3 days ago by Amazon Customer
I enjoyed it. It's the kind of book that you sip a little bit each night like a fine scotch or brandy. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Alastair J. W. Maxwell
Complex, brilliant, refined... but sometimes demanding on the readers patience, especially the first 200 pages or so. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Guy Wonder
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 morePublished on Jan. 5 2014 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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 morePublished on Aug. 18 2013 by R. Henderson
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
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 morePublished on Jan. 9 2012 by Rodge
Some of my other favourite books are "The Catcher in the Rye", "The Lord of the Rings" and "Lord of the Flies". Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2011 by David Michael Sidhu