Dec 29, 2011

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: a book review

Today I finished Susanna Clarke's debut novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I can say with no hesitation that I thought it was a masterpiece! Written in exquisite Regency-style prose, the novel spins an alternate history of England in the first decades of the 19th century, crippled by war with Napoleon. Magic is regarded as all but extinct, and even the study and belief in England's magical history wanes under the influence of the Age of Reason. Amid these currents emerge two practicing magicians, Mr. Norrell and Mr. Strange, built on restoring English magic to the the country's formative glory. Within the pages of the novel, Clarke weaves impeccable historical detail with traditional and invented fairy-lore to create a truly believable and enchanting alternative history.

Clarke's attention to detail and vivid portrayal of period accuracies is what really stole my heart in this book. Her writing style, despite being that of a contemporary author, fits seamlessly along side writers such as Emily Bronte and Jane Austin. Her descriptions of magic, both ritually and it's results, are convincing enough to make readers almost believe they could do the same (provided they could have a peak at some of Mr. Norrell's books!). The way she paints the realms and inhabitants of Faerie is refreshing and deliciously horrific, her version of the creatures falling somewhere between quaint traditional folklore and something out of a Del Toro film. Moody scenes atop Yorkshire moors and among the naked grey branches of winter English woods leave the book with a distinct flavor of the Romantic Gothic novel, finely tuned for a modern audience.

Being aimed at modern readers with similar persuasions, I think readers of this blog will delight in this book as much as I did! I highly recommend it!

Did I mention it has awesome illustrations?


  1. Inspired by Susanna's brilliant writings (of Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norell) thought you might enjoy my short piece entitled
    How To Avoid (Or To Invite) Enchantment by Faries, Elves & Elementals;
    I have recorded soundfile (with music) at top page,
    so settle back and enjoy.....

  2. Oh my! I followed a link to your blog out of curiosity and found a review of one of my favorite books ever! I actually bought it as an impulse buy, in 2007 while on holiday, because the cover intrigued me so much! (Mine is red, because it's three parts in one book!) Since then, I re-read it about once a half-year, and since there are so many little passages from it that I love and mark, it is absolutely worn and covered with stick-it notes! :D I read a rumor at some point about there being a movie made out of the book- I'd love that so much, provided it was done right, because it's such a rich and vivid story (and I'd love to see the outfits designed for it!).

    1. Hi Nina! Thank you so much for your readership! I admit I am a terribly lazy blogger but I appreciate the comments even if I read them months later. I also heard a rumor about it being produced as a film. I would LOVE that so much, though I think it might take away from the pacing of the novel. It seems like fantasy in film and tv is making a comeback with the success of "Game of Thrones" and "Snow White and the Huntsman", "The Hobbit", and Del Toro's upcoming "Beauty and the Beast". I do hope that this encourages Hollywood to admit that magic and fable has a profitable place on the silver screen!

      Have you read any other books that have a simmilar kind of feel? I'm always looking for new book recommendations.

      Read again soon!
      ~ Lady Salt