Monday 28 July 2008

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Illustrated by Portia Rosenberg

jslg.jpgPublished by Bloomsbury Publishing
Distributed by Raincoast Books

Mr. Norrell is a strange man who is withdrawn and obstinate to the extreme. His passion is magic and his foremost love is his ever-growing library of magical books. In fact it is this same collection that leads to others seeking him out and requesting his aid in the unending war against Napoleon. England is astonished by his glorious feats; particularly the raising of a woman from the dead and it would soon seem that Mr. Norrell may single-handedly reunite England with her magical past which has long since been forgotten.

To Jonathan Strange life is an adventure. The regular trappings that interest a person of his age hold no interest for him. Nor does he seem able to find a career that suits him until he gets it into his head that he shall be a magician but with all the books on the subject being bought by Mr. Norrell, where is he to begin his studies?

Fate brings the two gentlemen together and so begins a love/hate relationship like no other. Fuelled not only by their own differences but also by the unremitting meddling of their acquaintances and the mischievous actions of a gentleman from the Otherworld who has his own agenda.

What follows is a magical, brilliant, captivating story that will awake the imagination of any who should read the tale.

I have only one regret with this book, and that is the regret that I did not read it sooner. I actually read The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories first which introduced me to the world of Strange and Norrell. You can read the review of that title here. As for this book, I simply adored it. While I acknowledge that I have always been fond of books containing magic and fantasy themes I find it hard to believe that anyone could pick this book up and not love it as much as I did.

I often find myself loving one character more than the rest when I read works of fiction but with this novel I found that there were too many to choose from. Each character is beautifully written and holds unique qualities that appeal to me. On the flip side, I can tell you without question that I detested Henry Lascelles who is an acquaintance of Mr. Norrell and an exceedingly nasty piece of work. I can’t remember the last character that inspired such a negative reaction in me.

What I loved about this book too, were the footnotes that often reference fictional pieces of work and which I found helped to draw me into the book more, making it more real as it were. It was a wonderful addition. I also liked that many historical figures are included or referenced in the tale.

For those who love illustrations, there are black and white images sprinkled throughout the pages that are created by British artist Portia Rosenberg and which also add a little something special.

I really loved this book and while the size of the novel itself may seem a little daunting, please do take the time to check it out. It’s well worth it.

Author’s website: (lots of great extras to be found including news regarding a film of this book)


Anonymous said...

I just ran into your site and was pleased to see at the top a review of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, one I had a lovely time with a few years ago! It's always nice to run into fellow book worms!

Frances said...

An extraordinary work which was longlisted for the Man Booker I seem to remember. I did find the footnotes a bit laborious but its a very clever book.

Great site Charlene.

Charlene Martel said...

Thanks Frances! It means a lot to know people like reading the reviews!

Trevor: Yes, it sure is. I have found since I started blogging that I have been exposed to far more bookworms than I ever imagined (and I love it!) which of course leads to the age old problem of too many books recommended and not enough time!