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)
This book is incredibly well-written but the more literary style is quite slow compared to other books that fall under the fantasy category. You are probably more likely to love this book if you have a thing for period dramas and historical fiction than you tend to prefer Tolkeinesque fantasy. This book is elegantly composed but it's definitely slow. As another reader pointed out, it takes about 8-10 hours of listening before the story starts to draw you in, and I'm not sure I ever truly did.
In the end, I can appreciate the amount of work that the author put into this book (it really is a beautiful piece of literature), but it was just a bit too dry to sate my desire for a good mental escape.
One note on the reading. Mr. Prebble did a great job with the accents (though not being from the UK, I don't know how precise his renditions were), but he kept mis-pronouncing "sidhe" (which is a Gaelic word pronounced more like "she" than "sid-hay"). Call it a pet peeve, but when an author goes to the trouble of using a very specific word, I feel bumped out of the story whenever it's mis-used.
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis
In the best fantasy your unbelief is suspended and you are drawn into the book. At least this is what I look for in fantasy. In this book I had trouble. It is well written and the story is ok. THe narration is almost perfect. But I sat outside the book. I couldn't get inside.
Reading Fantasy and SCI-FI on audible.
This book I tried to read but it took a long time to get going and I was not getting through it very quickly. I bought the audio book and it really came to life. Even the slow parts were done well. It is a long story about an alternative history of England - one where magic played a major part, was forgotten, and is making a comeback. The story telling by Simon Prebble was very good - its British so it had to have the appropriate mannerism and accents. Its a pretty entertaining book in the end although a little weak on the ending. Overall, very worth the effort.
I'm a working student at an equestrian training business and part-time restaurant lackey. Audiobooks get me through the long hours of manual labor the former includes. I love science fiction and fantasy and short fiction from any genre.
Yes, it's captivating, emotionally resonant, and, best of all, long. The mass-appeal of the well-crafted magical world and many fun tangents are sure to catch even a listener without a liking for a Regency setting.
Persuasion, Vanity Fair, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre for its period setting, class conflict, and all its isolated country houses in Yorkshire. The Golden Compass & sequels for the depth and quality of its magic and social commentary.
He did a great job with characters' voices and transitioning to and from the many footnotes in the story.
Maybe not one sitting, but I had trouble turning it off! I work with horses and I listen to books while I turn out, muck out stalls, clean tack, etc., and I often found myself sitting in the barn an extra 10 or 15 minutes with nothing left to do. It would be suitable for a long drive.
If the length isn't a plus for you know that the pacing is just right. Each strand of the story comes together at the right time to prevent annoying lingering questions and Clark leaves enough time between parts dealing with different major characters to keep the audience interested in each.
This book lived up to all of the high ratings I saw. That is not always the case. The narration was top rate. Everything about the story and characters made you feel that you were there in England in the early 1800s. The footnote inclusions were interesting. At the end of the book it got slightly annoying but a minor point in my mind. The narrator's skill was easily able to make the book flow despite the footnotes. This is a great use of a credit!
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
This book came out at a time when there were a lot of books and movies about magic; some of them about real magic and some about illusionists. Despite a number of recommendations, I was confused about this one, and it didn't help that it was shelved with regular fiction instead of fantasy. Make no mistake, this is a book about real magic; and it most surely belongs in the legitimate fiction section. Clarke uses magic as a very complex metaphor for various kinds of knowledge and technology in our own world; far too complex to try to convey here. That was surprise number one. I was also misled by the title, supposing that the two men were a team of some sort. Well, I suppose they are in some sense, but the relationship between the two is far more nuanced and complicated; the kind of fully realized non-romantic relationship that you rarely come across anywhere these days. That was surprise number two. We are used to seeing books by men with little in the way of female characters, and books by women with very little in the way of male characters. I do not recall a book by a woman with virtually no female characters. There are a couple, and they do have an important role, but their actual "screen time" is very small. That was surprise number three. In fact, the two main female characters give rise to some really interesting meditations on the nature of love, devotion, and marriage. But on that subject I will say no more. Clarke also gives us a vision of faerie true to its origins--a world with its own agenda where humans venture at their own risk. I am looking forward to more books from Susanna Clarke.
No, I would not consider the audio version superior but it seems odd to compare the two. I like print versions for the ease of jumping from place to place in the book.
The descriptions of the parties at fairy mansion.
This is my first exposure to Mr. Prebble's work.
Vinculus the street magician because he's so much more than he seems.
I am a die hard "Harry Potter" and "The Night Circus" (as well as Jim Dale) fan and loved both reading the books and listening to the audio versions endlessly, but longed for something new. Then I found Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Simon Prebble has exceeded any expectations that I had before hesitantly deciding to take this lengthy book on, and his performance of the clever, witty, mesmerizing story is brilliant. And I say performance, because he voices the characters and reads this incredible piece of work with such subtle nuances and absolute perfection in keeping each character distinct and identifiable. Susanna Clarke's story itself is a masterpiece. I don't know if reading the book would have intimidated me at 782 pages, but I relished each and every minute of the 32 hours, Mr. Prebble's narration is that good. I am so glad that I listened to it first, because I am now looking forward to adding this wonderful book to my fantasy collection and reading the printed version. But not before listening to it all over again... so many things I missed! It might be difficult to follow the Old English style initially, but the story ever so slowly builds and twists and winds around so many different characters and settings - magicians, faeries, castles, countries, "otherlands"! I found myself holding my breath in anticipation as I neared the end. Bravo, Susanna Clarke and Simon Prebble, and thank you both for bring magic back into my life.
I choose not to define my "self" in such terms that would limit or confine my being by any preconceived notions that those terms might imply. I am fluid and always changing as is life in general. To say something about myself now may be true for the moment but the next moment may completely invalidate the statement for all time. Even if I were simply to say "I am me and I am alive" would only be true for a finite amount of time.
The narrator did an absolutely wonderful job and combined with the alternative history feel, you might forget that this is a fantasy book and not some long lost history of magic. That being said though the story itself is great and although it can be slow in some spots it does make up for it towards the end.
There is no way someone could listen to this book in one sitting, it is huge. That being said I finished it in a matter of days and that's pretty amazing considering the size.
What a wonderful story! Just a good book- hands down. Susanna Clarke did an excellent job of fleshing out her characters and story. They are not fully good or evil, wrong or right... they just are who they are. Simon Prebble brings this story to life and I was very sorry when it ended. This is on my "listen again" list.
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