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.
The narrative in this delightful tale is already rich with the charm of the Regency period of a fanciful alternate England. The audiobook adds the talents of a skilled and versatile narrator who brings every character uniquely to life. The combination is a rare treat.
From Austen to zombies!
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a Victorian novel written at least 125 years too late. Set in a Britain where magic is part of history, the novel rambles along like a grandmother walking through a rose garden. It deals humorously and respectfully with its major themes: friendship and its attendant duties, and knowledge and who gets custody of it.
Listeners who aren't used to the Victorian "three-volume" style may find themselves adrift. My advice to people in this situation is to sit back and enjoy the tangents, footnotes, and side plots. They're all humorous and perceptive, much in the style of Charles Dickens.
Of course, just when your attention is completely turned toward all of that, the main story will rise up and bonk you on the head with its rolled-up umbrella.
Older readers and fans of the Austen/Dickens style will probably enjoy this more than the Harry Potter teens-and-tweens group. English Lit majors and academics will choke themselves laughing--be careful if drinking liquids while listening, that's all I can say.
Narrator Simon Prebble does an excellent job--in a novel with so many characters, he manages to make them all sound different. It's rather a time commitment at 32 hours, but even so, I thought it was too short, with an ending that felt a bit rushed. Still, highly recommended.
This was a delightful book to listen to, especially since the narrator Simon Prebble made the English characters really come alive. Many reviews have described this book as an adult version of Harry Potter and I guess in some ways it is like that series but I haven't read those books only seen the movies. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell had many unique characters and neat twists and turns. The use of footnotes to move the story along was especially unique. At many times I found myself wanting to reach out and shake sense into the characters so that they might discover the 'right path' or catch the meaning of someone speaking to them. At other times I found myself desiring to become a magician like that was at all possible. For me, one of the signs of a good author is if they can draw you into their story with an elaborate plot, descriptions, and metaphors, and Susanna Clarke definitely does that. Of course like any novel the twists and turns don't always go to your liking and the author seems to have left the door open for follow on editions. Though there are twists in the story I would change, if I had only half the talent of Ms. Clarke I would be writing this masterful novel not reading it.
This is Harry Potter for adults, but much, much better. This book was a labor of love for the author, taking 10 years to write. This really shows in the depth of the characterization and richness in the historical details, both real and imaginary. In JS&MN, Clarke created a parallel Regency England where the only difference to the real thing is the presence of magic. As I've always like fantasy novels with strong ties to reality (it makes the fantasy that much more palpable) I thoroughly enjoyed this conceit. It is rare that I feel like I learnt so much of history from a fantasy novel!
Big mystery lover here! The picture is of my father who is suffering with dementia and my youngest daughter on her wedding day.
This is a book I read first before listening to it. I give it 5 stars because it is entirely original. It is a dark and brooding story of magic and the dread it brings to all who encounter it.
You will have no idea where the author is taking you, and that is how should be when people encounter magic.
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.
This book is a delightful jaunt off the path of a typical fantasy or historical fiction novel. It's definitely not for those who like to follow a straightforward plot, but the book gets to where it needs to go in the end, and along the way there are many laughs and bits of delight.
As for the narration, words cannot do it justice. Simon Prebble was an inspired choice for this novel, and he does a tremendous job. He is spot on with his nuances and inflections.
A true English tale, long enough to become part of my life for a good while. Brilliant writing that leaves no stone unturned, no pebble unkicked, no detail lost. I'm left believing every word as if it were history itself, delicately and intricately woven, not one single patronizing phrase.
Two hours left of listening and I am already missing this book. Samual Prebble (narrator) artfully manages 20 characters' voices. Susanna Clarke is a storyteller in every best sense of the word. If you like historical fiction (first two decades of 19th century), character-drvien plot (two main magicians and several well-formed ancillary characters), smart unselfconscious dialogue, all in a story long enough to become an environment that you can't wait to return to, listen to (or read) this book. My only compaint is that it ends.