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The hammering and what-not has started here at the house this morning, as the repairs necessary from the sewage flood of October, 2009 continue. I thought that before I started work for the day, I would post up a small review of the book that I finished reading before bed last night...

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is a very strange book. To be honest, I've had it in the reading queue for several years seemingly now, but just never got around to it. Most books suffer when wrapped in the hyperbole of the press, and very few of them can live up to it. That was one reason for my hesitancy to read the book. However, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell not only lives up to it, but the book surpasses anything wonderful written about it. This is, quite simply, just a wonderful book. More to the point, this book is definitely not "Harry Potter for grown-ups" as some of the hype said; magic in this book is different, darker, more wintery, despite Clarke's occasional, charming flights of fancy.

The tone of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell reminded me far quite a lot of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, rather. First, there's nothing modern about this book, the tone and atmosphere being very much 19th Century. The spelling of many words is nineteenth century, and while many readers may find this annoying, I rather liked it, and thought it added tremendously to the charm, the authenticity of the book.

The author wove her own magical world into actual history, so seamlessly in fact that there were times when I really found myself caught up in her make-believe world. The book is replete with footnotes, something that I generally don't like, but these seemed to add very much to the verisimilitude of the story. While the book clocks in at nearly 800 pages of small type, it's not at all wordy and there's no filler here. It is so well constructed and nicely paced that it reads quite fast comparatively. One of the things I liked about the book is that the ending, which definitely was unpredictable, was bittersweet, heartbreaking, unforgettable, and when all is said and done, inevitable. There may be a sequel to the volume, as there is obviously a set-up for one, but it seemed quite reasonable to expect such a thing based on the ending of the book.

To put it bluntly, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a ripping good yarn, extremely well crafted and written by a woman who promises to be one of today's most imaginative storytellers. Yes, the book really was that good.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
My wife read this ages ago and didn't get on with so I've been putting it off but now I've conquered V. it's probably time I gave it a go, especially with yours and others good reviews.
Apr. 15th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear that I've motivated you to read the book. :) Look forward to seeing your review of it on your LJ blog.
Apr. 24th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
I read Strange & Norrell a few years ago, and I definitely concur with your review of it. I think there were a couple times when it seemed that a section was a bit long (just as a consequence of being such an ox-stunner), but I agree it was fabulously crafted and certainly one to recommend.

I've also had friends discuss it as a game setting; it would be a wonderful thing to be able to inhabit it, but I don't know if anyone could really pull it off. I'd love to see an attempt, though.
Apr. 25th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
I think it would be an interesting world in which to game, but I'm not sure that anyone could create the game to do this. Mind you, if Stross can have his Laundry Files go rpg, why not this one?
Apr. 25th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
Laundry is comparatively easy to do because it's so over the top and extreme.

I'm sure you could do A Strange & Norrell game, but there's a delicacy to the setting that would be much more difficult to really pull off well for a game. Subtle is difficult to do in a game. You'd need committed players who really got it in order to make it work.
Apr. 26th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
I agree. Would definitely be a subtle game to pull off, and would certainly need committed players.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


John Kahane

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