JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL By Susanna Clarke [Review]

JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL is one of the most delightful books I’ve read all year and I’m hoping you’ll check it out if you haven’t already. The story takes place in 19th century England during a time when magic has been absent from the country for some centuries. Many men call themselves magicians, however, they only study it, not practice.

One such group of scholarly magicians in York meet every week to discuss all things magic and to have a night away from the family. Two of the group’s members John Segundus and a Mr. Honeyfoot have heard tales of a magician living in the country that has a large selection of magical books in his library. However, this man (Mr. Norrell) has never accepted any of their invitations to join the group. Segundus and Honeyfoot make a visit to Norrell’s house to meet the mysterious man in person.

They discover that not only does he have the finest selection of magical books in England, he is also able to perform real magic. Norrell is persuaded to travel to London where he might be able to put his skills to good use for the government. While there, another magician surfaces, Jonathan Strange. Where Norrell is an introverted, grumpy, old man who is very cautious about all aspects of magic, Strange is young, handsome, and charming and seeks to uncover all the lost magic of the notorious Raven King. Norrell takes Strange in as a student but they soon find they have very opposing views on the subject of magic.

Meanwhile, Norrell has done something he advises everyone not to do in magic and calls the aid of a fairy. The fairy, known as the “Man with the Thistle Down Hair” has been awoken and begins causing all sorts of trouble around England. Will Norrell admit his mistake so Strange can understand why he has cautions about fairy magic? Will a prophecy about Strange and Norrell come to pass and tear the two apart?

This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. Susanna Clarke is a genius that manages to develop her characters in such a way that you can love and hate them all at the same time. She goes into generous detail, without boring the reader. Some of her ample footnotes are almost like little short stories within themselves. Clarke has created a world full of magic, fairies, enchantments, and kings but is written in a voice similar to Jane Austen.

Here are a few quotes from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell:

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never could”.

“”But for a moment he had some wild notion of telling Mr Segundus everything – all about his enchantment and the enchantment of the two women”

“Yet the reason for Vinculus’s celebrity – or notoriety – was a little mysterious. He was no better a magician than any of the other charlatans with lank hair and a dirty yellow curtain. His spells did not work, his prophecies did not come true and his trances had been proven false beyond a doubt”

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Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Bloomsbury | Pages: 846 | Source:Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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