This is not a book for individuals with attention spans the size of fruit flies.
Yes, it is long. Yes, it takes some imagination and thoughtfulness to appreciate. There are those however, who appreciate an author who doesn't insult our intelligence or try to manipulate us by telling us exactly how we should feel in every scene. If you need your story spoon-fed to you and refuse to do any of the intellectual heavy lifting required to appreciate good writing then this book probably isn't for you.
The story ultimately belongs to Jonathan Strange and his evolution from a callow and self-centered life of privilege to a man scarred by the losses of war and a literal darkness. Mr. Norrell's narrative is that of a man grown old, fearful of losing what he has, to see that it's nothing at all if he has no one to share it with. In this sense, it is NOT a story about magic, but about PEOPLE. It is the story of the relationship between Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, between Jonathan Strange and his wife, between Mrs. Strange and Mrs. Pol, between Mrs. Pol and The Man with the Thistledownhair, and so on... very rich, complex, interesting relationships.
This book has many rewards for those who open themselves to its beautiful language and the way its story unfolds - with grace and dignity. Not the least of its rewards is how Mr. Segundus' steadfast faith and love for the study of magic is rewarded in the end. It is unfortunate that it has been unfairly maligned in the reviews for not being what some people think it should be, which is shallow and unreflective.
I wasn't keen on this audiobook. I found I had to keep re-winding in order to recall what was going on in the story. There are many characters, and the plot is not well suited to an audio format. I think I will buy the hard copy of the book as I suspect I would enjoy reading the story.
Maybe I'm missing out on what's so "enchanting" or "enthralling" about this book, but I simply didn't find it very entertaining. At 32 hours of listening time, I didn't expect every moment to be a completely enrapturing experience, but there were times that I honestly felt like it was a chore to tune my iPod to this book to finish it.
The storyline was very interesting, and at times Clarke has moments of real magic in her wordcraft (i.e. the madness of Mrs. Delgado) but the "historical" information inserted between the action made this book read much more like a textbook than a work of fiction, which I'm sure is what Ms. Clarke had in mind.
As a fictional textbook, Ms. Clarke's writing is right on the money-- her stylistic execution is perfect at convincing the reader they are studying a Victorian history of the magical lives of the two characters. (I'd like to reiterate what a genius she is at creating this illusion- it's flawless.) This, unfortuantely, is the work's main downfall: the perfection Clarke achieves in Victorian textbook style makes for dry and often downright boring reading.
As a fan of writers such as Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and the Brontes, the style of this book was very familiar, and the choice of narrator was excellent to convey this style. However, this book seemed more suited to the readers contemporary with the above authors, used to dry commentary and analysis and slowly-paced action.
I usually listen to audio books as a means of passing the time on my 45-minute commute, and I found myself falling asleep at the wheel a few times during this one, not to mention having my mind wander off constantly because I couldn't keep my concentration on the book-- a problem I have honestly never had before.
My recommendation: if you live for Victorian literature, you will enjoy this book, but if you're looking for a well-paced storyline that will keep you from falling asleep at the wheel, skip it until an abriged version is released.
I got about 4 hours into this book and was still hating every minute of it. I finally took it off my device and *paid* for a different download!! I reads like Dickens... so if you are an english lit. professor - go for it. If you wounldn't spend a credit on a classic English novel, pass on this!! Seriously boring and annoying.
After hearing the NPR review I immediately downloaded the book, kept waiting for the awesome story to develop.... Still waiting!
The story is complete nonsense. It should not have been listed under historical fiction at all
Simon Prebble's performance is fine, otherwise I would not have made it through the 4 chapters I have listened to.
For the life of me I can't figure out why this book is popular. The book built up for 20 hours then sort of kind of went somewhere for the last few.
The narrator did not help either. His reading could not have been less enthusiastic.
Absoluty not, how she got he story in print is a mystery.
She drones on and on and on about small details until you fall asleep.
Character were fine, but she over describe the characters till suspension of disbelief in totally shattered.
I would like to get my credit back, so I could get something better to listen to.
I don't know if I would have finished this if I was reading an actual book. I love the idea of the story, and the details, but got bogged down in all of the minutiae. The footnotes were amusing, and the narrator did a wonderful job.
In the end, I was not disappointed that I listed to it, but I am not as much of a fan as others are.
Not even sure.
I've already started Blood of Eden Book 1.
The narrator did a good job.
Not the characters, but the annotations/quotations were quite cumbersome.
The story was very slow and bogged down. I plan on returning the book.