As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

October 18, 2010

JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL by Susanna Clarke, 2004

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellIt's 1808 and that Corsican upstart Napoleon is battering the English army and navy. Enter Mr. Norrell, a fusty but ambitious scholar from the Yorkshire countryside and the first practical magician in hundreds of years. What better way to demonstrate his revival of British magic than to change the course of the Napoleonic wars? Susanna Clarke's ingenious first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, has the cleverness and lightness of touch of the Harry Potter series, but is less a fairy tale of good versus evil than a fantastic comedy of manners, complete with elaborate false footnotes, occasional period spellings, and a dense, lively mythology teeming beneath the narrative. (Amazon product description/review)

Review by Rebecca Garcia, Student at NYU

What can I possibly tell you about Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.  It was the first book that I read in 2006 and I knew immediately that no other book could possibly measure up to the greatness contained therein.  Since the first time I read this book, I have been singing its praises ever since.

I’m sure you’ve heard it be called the “Harry Potter” for adults. Well, it’s not. It is not at all like Harry Potter. The similarities begin and end with the books taking place in England and there is magic.  While Harry Potter is a beautiful and well-constructed world and a damn good story that was meant for children, this book wasn’t meant for children.  It is about an adult for adults about adults. That doesn’t mean a young reader who has a high reading level can’t enjoy it. It is just that a lot of young readers would find the length daunting and find it boring.  Nevertheless, I am here to tell you that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is as excellent or even more excellent than Harry Potter.
The simplest summary I could give is that this is a story about two British magicians trying to revive British magic at the dawn of the 19th century. For you see, in the world carefully constructed by Susanna Clarke, Britain had a glorious tradition of Magic that broke down and deteriorated. The glorious tradition is no more when a certain Mr John Segundus asks the Learned Society of York Magicians why no one is performing magic any more. Why is there no longer practical magic in England?
But then, it turns out that there is a practicing Magician in Yorkshire by the name of Mr Gilbert Norrell and Mr Norrell is determined to restore England to its former magical glory on his own.
Add fairies, false charlatan magicians, wayward students that later become rivals, devoted wives, epic footnotes, alternate history, the Duke of Wellington, 19th century style writing and prose style, 700+ pages of glorious book, and you have got yourself the recipe for a thumping good time.
Read it. Love it. Revel in it.
Market: Adult                                                             
Language: Mild 
Sensuality: Nothing Objectionable
Violence: Death, War, Raising the dead, Crazy fairies

Mature Themes: Death, War, Madness, Crazy fairies

Book Formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Susanna Clarke

3 comments:

Amy Finnegan said...

Rebecca, I know how much you LOVE Harry Potter, so hearing you say that you like a book equally as much, or possibly more, says a lot! So of course I started reading the book 30 seconds after you submitted this review :)

I'm so excited for the readers of Bookshop Talk to experience your passion for good lit. I've never met your equal, my friend!

And at some point, you've got to give us a good introduction to the world of manga ;)

Jessica Day George said...

I love, love, love this book! So glad to hear someone else loves it too!

Anonymous said...

This is a great, great book. Borrowed it from the library a year ago and then bought it soon afterward so I could read it again and again. I've heard a movie is in the works somewhere - wonder what that'll be like!