It's fortunate (for the buyer, I guess) that Audible keeps all purchases in your library. Because sometimes a book will not appeal that at another time might. This should have been one of those. When I first bought this book, I just could not get into it. It wasn't the language (which sets this book out of mental reach of your teeny-bopper fantasy fan in spite of her foray into the world of faeries and fey), neither was it the premise (which took on more than should be expected to deliver). The characters were not well-enough developed for this to be a "character study" type of novel. The plot wasn't well-enough addressed to be a "storytelling escape" either. I guess my problem with this book was the author's purpose for writing it. I never cared enough to figure it out. So I set it aside and did not finish it. About a year later, faced with a long air trip and nothing to occupy me, I gave this book a fresh listen. This time I did get all the way through it. And I'm left with the same impression. I very much appreciate the intelligence with which Susanna Clarke writes. She has an eloquence in her style and use of language. But I still miss why I should care about any of the characters or the story itself.
This book is a delight. It's a wonderful combination of wit, sentiment, fantasy, and a reference back to the great literature of the past. A truly adult fantasy where "adult" means literary merit and intelligence, not sexuality. I read it some years ago and liked it but decided to listen to it again. I found the listening experience even better than reading it. A great narrator and a fine, fine book. I also recommend Clarke's "The Ladies of Grace Adieu", set in the same world as "Strange and Norell". I just wish she'd write another book soon, I can't wait.
I don't review every book--only books I feel strongly about--hence the many 4-5 star vs 1-2 star reviews. Just my opinions--hope they help.
I really could not connect with this book. I listened and waited for it to take off and engage and it just never happened for me. It was like reading sketches for a novel all strung together with such loose cohesion that it boggled the mind. I kept hoping that an editor would step in and make some sense of the whole thing. Parts of it are excellent but to me the whole was a disappointment.
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.
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.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
When I read/listen to a book this long, I feel compelled to contribute something back if with nothing else: a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. So many of the reviews here also refer to the length of the book. In the beginning hours, like others, I asked myself if this was going to be worth it. And, like many of the reviews, my answer is an unequivocal: hang in there... it’s worth it.
The Publisher’s Summary pretty well outlines the story. It fails, however, to convey the incredible skill with which the story is crafted in writing and delivered in narration. In parts, the book is incredibly witty and throughout quite dry. But hey, it is after-all English. And, as the English would say, this book is very, very clever.
Can you be engaged in some other mental activity while listening and enjoy this piece to its fullest? I think not. The book requires your attention. It is not so singularly dimensional as perhaps a Robert Jordan WOT story. While it might be successfully compared to a Harry Potter novel, this is probably not a book that would be enjoyed as much by youngsters as it would by an adult. To appreciate the richness and detail of this story, it probably takes a bit more patience than that possessed by most first-person-shooters. It does not, however, take an artist to appreciate its beauty.
It seems difficult for some to call and others to recognize anything fantasy as classic literature. If we are still around in a couple hundred years, people will refer to this book as a classic.
Loved sinking into the story, the twists and turns. Dickensian in some ways, fascinating! Read wonderfully well by Mr. Prebble.
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.
I can't emphasize enough that this book is not "Harry Potter for grownups." When searching the internet for reviews of this book, this was the most common description I got. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, aside from being concerned with English magic, has very little in common with the Harry Potter series. If you begin this book with the expectation of action-packed accounts of dueling wizards fighting to rid the world of an evil sorcerer, then you will be sorely disappointed. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is much closer to a Jane Austen or Charles Dickens novel than it is to any of J.K. Rowling's offerings.
That being said...this is one of the best books I've read in quite a while. It is a wonderful example of pastiche that uses the style it is imitating to great humorous effect without belittling it in any way. The characters, especially those of Strange and Norrell, but the supporting cast as well, are well developed and fully realized. I especially enjoyed those aspects of the story that play on the comedy of manners genre and found them particulary humourous, though it is a very British brand of humor.
On the whole, I suppose the book would be best described as an alternate history. Much of it takes place among the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and there are scenes involving King George III in the grips of madness. Strange, after an apprenticeship under Norrell, becomes the official magician to the Duke of Wellington and plays an integral role in his triumph in the Peninsular War and, later, at Waterloo.
After returning to England, Strange and Norrell's relationship dissolves and each of them sets himself on a path to destroy the other. This continuing battle is exacerbated by the actions of a devilish character acting on the fringes of their world and who may, or may not, be human.
However one wishes to describe it though, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was the winner of the 2005 Hugo Award and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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.