Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is more than 900 pages, for context the audio version is 32 hours long. And yet at the end, I wished it had been longer.
My Dad, who has been giving me books since as far back as I can remember, gave me this one several years ago. It lived on my bookshelf and was passed over for shorter, less daunting works. Now I’ve finished I wish I could go back and have read it immediately.
This summary, and probably the whole post, will be unjustly simple but for the sake of brevity it’ll have to do. Just know this barely scratches the surface. #cliché #basic
To begin, this plot is amazing. Clark gave it so much room to grow; it was fully developed in a way I wish all novels could be. This is the story of two magicians, not surprisingly named Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It spans many years to show us the magicians’ numerous adventures and growth. We learn magical history, new magical discoveries are made, there’s an evil fairy, a war with Napoleon Bonaparte, and lots of enchantments. This novel also shows us some of their misadventures, emphasizing that even magicians are humans, flaws and all. In all fairness, there are a few dry parts in the middle (as no novel is perfect) but they’re worth it. The whole thing finally culminates in a test of the magicians’ true character and some pretty cool magic.
Ugh. I’m annoyed with my own gushing so I wrap up the plot summary here, but really, you must read this book.
The foot notes are relevant and entertaining, hints are planted perfectly, the imagery is vivid. Not to mention the characters grow like you would not believe. I image it’s because they’re given the room to do so, but seriously. Comparing the Strange of the last few pages to his first mention is unreal. (At this time I would also like to nominate his wife Arabella for sainthood.) Steven Black and John Childermass undergo impressive transformations, and even Mr. Norrell learns to leave his stuffy library.
Again with the gushing. It’s hard not to when a book with so much potential actually reaches it successfully. I’ll be the first to admit that this book looks like it’s too difficult to take on but I promise it’s worth it. Clarke is a master story teller and you’ll be asking for more when you’ve finished. So read it.
I haven’t watched the BBC series based on this novel but you can bet your sweet behind I’m going to watch it now.