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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell | [Susanna Clarke]

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.
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Publisher's Summary

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr. Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative, the very opposite of Mr. Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr. Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr. Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.

Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that 32 hours leave readers longing for more.

©2004 Susanna Clarke; (P)2004 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, and Bloomsbury Publishing

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award Winner, Best Novel, 2005
  • World Fantasy Award Winner, 2005
  • Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2005

"A smashing success....An exceptionally compelling, brilliantly creative, and historically fine-tuned piece of work." (Booklist)
"Extraordinary....Immersion in the mesmerizing story reveals its intimacy, humor, and insight, and will enchant readers of fantasy and literary fiction alike." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ravishing...superb...combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien." (Time)
"Clarke welcomes herself into an exalted company of British writers - not only, some might argue, Dickens and Austen, but also the fantasy legends Kenneth Grahame and George MacDonald - as well as contemporary writers like Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (4156 )
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  •  
    Joel Kitchen 01-15-10 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    53
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    "A Great Book I Didn't Like"

    Literature majors have to read a huge cross section of writing. Hopefully, at one time or another, they will learn that there are books out there that have every reason to be great works, but they just don't like them.

    JS&MN is like that for me. I listened to the book twice, to give it a fair listening. When I was done my conclusion was that some books were, in fact, written to be read, not read aloud. The need to fall to foot notes or appendices for some given information would often break train of thought. This wouldn't happen while you were actually reading. Don't get me wrong, it does fit the genre and time period, it was just hard for me to sometimes stay in a slower section when some note came up about someone who is, perhaps, mentioned only in passing. Also the transition between one passage and the other isn't clear cut in a reading. For me, at the beginning, two of the characters, Black and Strange, get hard to separate.

    Now, my whining aside, the book is an excellent choice. Ms. Clarke does a wonderful job at keeping faithful to the English arrogance of the era. You have to understand that it was just something that they expected, everything English was superior, from education to their society. Who wouldn't want to be English? But just when it is easy to become complacent, she sneaks a twist at the end that isn't shocking but unexpected.

    If you are a listener who sits down to place your entire attention on a book, I cannot suggest JS&MN more. If, like me, you find yourself doing other things while you listen, this book might be one of those you have to stop and back up, to listen to something you missed.

    The reading was superior, and I've heard a few that were not so I know. His inflection and rhythm are what a listener expects in a novel about England at the time of Napoleon. The casual air of assumed superiority in every situation was fantastic. In the future I will look up books based on their being read by Mr. Prebble.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Coeur d'Alene, ID, United States 05-31-08
    Paul Coeur d'Alene, ID, United States 05-31-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow."

    The book itself is incredible, and the person who reads it is one of the best I've ever heard. Together it is easily the best audio book I've ever listened to. If you're a fan of any magical realm from any writer's imagination, you're going to love this book. And if you're new to this genre, this book may well ruin you for other lesser works.

    15 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip Arlington, TX 11-30-12
    Phillip Arlington, TX 11-30-12 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "**NOT**Harry Potter for Grownups!"

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Devin 05-27-12
    Devin 05-27-12

    Avid listener of Scifi and Fantasy. I've found so many great books with the help of member reviews. Hopefully I can return the favor.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clever Witty Sleeping Pill"

    I've tried and failed to finish this audiobook on several occasions, and its not for lack of trying. I stuck it out until I was at least halfway through(the 2nd time) so I believe I made it past the "slow beginning". I'm normally a fan of very long books, and I hate to give up on a story but this one just falls short for me.

    If Jane Austin and Charles Dickens had a child who wrote fantasy books, I think those books would be a lot like this. This is more a book of manners than a plot driven story. The writing is very clever and witty, but so much of the story is centered on stuffy gentlemen and ladies discussing magic in drawing rooms and parlors. Don't get me wrong, the writing is very clever and witty. You can tell author has great talent, she just focuses that talent in the wrong areas of the story.

    Judging by the other reviews a lot of people love this book. Personally I don't see the attraction. I'll admit there is some amusing dialog and the setting is well thought out, but that only goes so far. Don't get me wrong this is a very well written book from a talented author, but some witty repartee can only carry a novel so far.

    For me this was a wasted credit. Listen to the sample before purchasing. It just goes to show that one person's masterpiece is another's snoozefest.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 12-16-10
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 12-16-10 Member Since 2015

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4393
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    "Worth it in every respect"

    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.

    14 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 01-18-10
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 01-18-10 Member Since 2015

    How can the characters in this year's True Detective be worse? Ferrill is asexual, drunk, corrupt, a child abuser and worse!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Strange"

    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.

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon D Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 09-07-08
    Sharon D Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 09-07-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Hard to Follow"

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine Silver Spring, MD, USA 09-04-06
    Katherine Silver Spring, MD, USA 09-04-06 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    87
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    4
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    "Failure To Engage"

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Eagan, MN, USA 01-24-05
    Stephen Eagan, MN, USA 01-24-05 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    363
    2
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    "Skip it!! The Only Audio Book I didn't Finish!!"

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annette 12-07-04
    Annette 12-07-04

    I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    405
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    74
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    "everything missing in modern fiction"

    Adventure, magic, occultism, war, fairies, history and all done wihtout treating me like a moron like so many of the suddenly popular "adventure mystery" art history stories. This is a great story period. I'm hardly ever this happy about a purchase- color me a tough customer.This was so great I just bought the hardcover. But now what?!

    20 of 26 people found this review helpful

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