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
"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)
I listened to the whole thing. It is phenomenally well-narrated. However, it does not escape the genre it is part of; no particularly deep understanding of psychology or social interaction is demonstrated and our understanding of the real or unreal world is not expanded. One of the professional reviewers compared its world to that of Tolkein -- not by a longshot; it falls several dimensions short. I found all of the characters eminently forgettable. This would of course be essential reading for those fascinated by the world of magic. I doubt that this will add many converts to the genre.
I've enjoyed this well written, imaginative tale of "the history of English magic" twice and can say with certainty that it is a story I will revisit many more times in the future. Clarke's language skills are a masterpiece and the "history" she fantasizes is delightful. Simon Prebble narrates with superior talent in bringing the various characters to life, bringing forth their individual personalities. A modern classic!
This is a book that I wanted to read but always seemed to get pulled away from in print form. I'm so glad that the audio format worked out so well for me. This is a staggering creation! The footnotes alone are a whole history unto themselves. I found the journey to be very much worthwhile!
The dry British humor might not work for some people and the length of the story can cause some difficulty for some people.
However, if this doesn't deter you, this book is wonderful. The elements portrayed combine a little history and incorporate magic and Fairie into a thorough narrative. I've enjoyed the story several times and find it unique among the genre.
The narrator did a great job representing the different characters and their manners.
Newbie in SD
Love the book and Mr. Prebble brings it alive. Amazing job he does giving voice to so many characters. FANTASTIC
I've had this book for years on CD, and loved it so much I bought the hardcover just to have a more "tangible" copy of such a masterpiece (that has a few charcoal drawings as well). I bought it again on audible just for the convenience of enjoying it again on my phone. Simon Prebble's reading is one of those that is so good, and each character voiced so well that I hope in the upcoming BBC America mini-series the actors sounds as good as Simon Prebble's impersonation of them. Especially The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair, where his acting takes one of the most interesting characters in literature to an entirely new level.
The story itself I have listened to 3 or 4 times, and there is so much density to it I get something new out of it every time. The world Susanna Clarke has set up, through fantastic backstory and detours via lengthy footnotes (which work surprisingly well on audio), is a stunning alternate history so real feeling it almost seems it should be true. It's not quite George RR Martin or Tolkien in its complexity, but that level of quality.
For anyone that might enjoy a story of magicians in an England that didn't quite exist, I highly recommend this.
Simon Prebble and his amazing ability to channel 20+ characters.
I started listening and couldn't stop. I had absolutely had no idea where it was going and couldn't guess the ending.
Love the opening chapters, the descriptions of the Man with the Thistledown Hair and the satisfying ending for many of the characters, especially Stephen Black and Lascelles. And the stupendous footnotes!!!!! After a few hours, I actually started to believe in the "golden age" of English magic and the Raven King.
You can pick just about any chapter at random in it and enjoy. If you love Jane Austen or Patrick Obrian, give it a try. After 100+ audiobooks, it's still my hands down favorite.
Most excellent. Warm, complex, and charming. Definitely worth the listen. Performance was most excellent as well.
This was the very first book I downloaded from Audible many years ago and ever since, I have been trying to convince my husband to listen/read it. Finally, we have begun commuting together and he chose this as our first listen, after my years of nagging. I was so nervous and excited that he was finally going to experience something I love unreservedly, but afraid he wouldn't get it. It is not for everyone, for sure. The pace is languid, the characters are revealed slowly, the plot is not very ... plotty. It's a book full of surprises and moments of true magic, but it is not a whiz bang kind of book. It's not showy and yet it is a totally engrossing story.
We listened for over an hour on our first commute. He chuckled in all the right places, but I still wasn't getting a sense of what he thought. And then when we finally arrived at work, he turned it off, turned to me and said the three words I wanted to hear: "I love it." Yay!
It's an alternate reality world in which magic exists/existed, but that's about all it has in common with Harry Potter. It's a pitch-perfect send-up of Regency-era writing, with Dickensian overtones (I find the dry humor to be very Dickens, and hilarious). It's also a gentle satire of academics and historians, especially in the beginning. Maybe it's because I am an academic who works with historians that I didn't find the beginning boring or slow; those useless debates are very familiar to me and I appreciated the gentle ribbing. I happen to love both 18th century British writing and alternate reality fiction, so this is right up my alley.
No, and that's really a crime because he is fantastic. He's not a narrator, he's a voice actor. There is a huge difference. He doesn't just read the book, he inhabits it and every one of its characters.
I just adore it. It's so many things. Alternate history, 18th century novel, satire, philosophical text. Other people wait for George R.R. Martin's next, I am waiting for Susanna Clarke to write another book. Her book of short stories is also quite good (I read it in print) but it's not enough!
I can't recommend this book enough. It's in my top ten, and I'm a pretty voracious reader/listener.
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