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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 (3988 )
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4.4 (1918 )
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  •  
    Robert Donahue Wayne, Nebraska 03-07-13
    Robert Donahue Wayne, Nebraska 03-07-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Boring"

    Some like this book, some hate it. I am leaning towards hate just because it feels like a waste of time. The story is as bland as the cuisine of the country in which it's based.

    One of the most jarring things in the books is the beginning. You're quickly introduced to two characters whom the author spends a lot of time on, then mentions that they are not the chosen ones, and throws them in a closet. They're brought out whenever something needs to be done and it might as well be done by a familiar name. I feel this is the case with every character besides one and as time goes on, one character that was initially interesting is turned into a milquetoast for no other reason than to ensure the reader doesn't wish the book was instead about him.

    The plot plods along with the characters just doing whatever comes naturally to them in the face of absolutely nothing going on otherwise. The only characters that do have something actually happen to them are tertiary characters. My reaction is "great, now if only the book was titled after them, and they had more chapters of their story."

    I'm not the type of person who needs every character to be likeable in a story, but if they are not likeable they at least need to be interesting. Mr. Norrell is neither likable or interesting. We establish the negative aspects of his personality pretty quickly and every scene he's in after that just rehashes these traits. He doesn't do anything new or interesting. In contrast, Strange is interesting, he grows and changes as the book goes on and has real human reactions to what is done to him.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua 02-22-13
    Joshua 02-22-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Overall disappointing for me"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    This book may have been a good read, since reading is much faster than listening, it would be have been a much better experience if the writer had focused more on things happening and less on the nuances of every office they visited. There are only so many times I can have an office or library described to me.


    What could Susanna Clarke have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    This book would have been more enjoyable if it had been faster paced. I feel like I spent hours and hours listening and nothing interesting ever happened. There is literally NO danger for ANY of the characters for most of the book. When danger does happen it is only for 2 characters and it's not necessarily danger just a bad situation. Another thing that would have really helped this book, is to not spend so much time focusing on characters that are just jerks. I never EVER felt like I agreed with Norrell's point of view or liked him as a character, yet, he was the first half of the book. It took far too long to introduce characters that were likeable. In fairness we did meet Mr. Honeyfoot and his friend who were pretty cool characters, however, they were taken out of the story almost immediately (after 4 hours of describing how they weren't real magicians).


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narration for this book was ok. I don't know if I am lowering the rating of the narration because of the book or because of the narrator. He may have been the reason it seemed so boring with his very proper way of speaking. However, it may have just been the book.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    There were good things about this book, I felt that the character development was slightly interesting, at least in Strange and Norrell, however, if they developed faster the book would have been far better. Going through 8 hours or so of listening before we even get to a decent person is irritating.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darel Grauberger Nampa, ID United States 02-07-13
    Darel Grauberger Nampa, ID United States 02-07-13 Member Since 2012

    Enjoy mostly non-fiction but really like the occasional creative, imaginative novel!

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    "Wonderful story and a stunning performance!"

    A wonderfully creative history of England with fascinating characters, language, and detail. Brimming with the deadpan British humor that makes me laugh. I was literally in awe of Simon Prebble's performance on this audio edition. It was amazingly nuanced and I never tired of listening to him. He lent a distinct voice to every character in the book. I definitely recommend this novel. I was initially taken in by the gaggle of glowing reviews that I happened to see in the paperback version of the book. The overwhelming critical praise was what drew me in to giving this a listen. I'll be watching for other titles by Simon Prebble and would definitely read this author again.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vanessa Rees 01-02-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I could not even get past the 5th chapter"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    a story line


    What could Susanna Clarke have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    not write books


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Simon Prebble?

    make his voice less boring


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    disappointment


    Any additional comments?

    I would like my credit back this was such a waist of my credit.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    annastazia OAKLAND, CA, United States 12-18-12
    annastazia OAKLAND, CA, United States 12-18-12
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    "Too confusing! Too many characters with long names"
    Would you try another book from Susanna Clarke and/or Simon Prebble?

    Maybe, but I might try reading it on paper instead. I was really confused by all the characters, historical notes and sub plots in this story. I kept having to rewind to review who was who, and what the back history was for each sub plot. This was tough to do on an ipod!


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel MILWAUKEE, WI, United States 12-03-12
    Joel MILWAUKEE, WI, United States 12-03-12 Member Since 2008

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A must!"

    One of the best books I have ever listend to. The depth and bredth of Ms. Clarke's novel is superb. Mr. Prebble's narration is perfect.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin Herndon, VA, United States 11-11-12
    Kevin Herndon, VA, United States 11-11-12 Member Since 2011

    Checking out Brandon Sanderson's work

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very interesting story and a great performance"

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cyrus Portland, OR, United States 11-11-12
    Cyrus Portland, OR, United States 11-11-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sort of a Harry Potter for grownups"

    This story takes us to a specific period in the history of England, when they are at war with Napoleon. In the world of the story, wizards and fairies were a famous part of England's past, but they have been largely dismissed as folk tales and superstition by the time the tale begins. Two men independently set out to learn and revive English magic, and of course their paths cross and become the foundation of a larger exploration of what happens when magic becomes a reality again, and powers from the faerie world regain their strength.

    The two main characters are actually not likable at all, at any point in the book. Fortunately, the story that carries them is very interesting and well-written, and the world they inhabit is complete in detail, so it actually becomes quite normal and OK that we do not like the protagonists--after all, we don't like everyone we meet in real life, and this story does a creditable job of applying its magical premises to the ordinary world. Wars are fought, lawsuits are filed, marriages struggle, petty vanities trump logic and decency, and all the other weaknesses of man and society are on grimy display; yet under it all, faerie magic flows.

    The narrator does a very solid job of the reading. He doesn't vary his character voices all that much, apart from a couple of grungier characters, but it's OK because they all speak in some variation of genteel British tones, which convey what is needed for nearly everyone in the story. His performance might be a bit sleep-inducing, but the story has a good flow that keeps your interest going, and the narrator doesn't get in the way.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louise Myersville, MD, United States 10-21-12
    Louise Myersville, MD, United States 10-21-12

    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.

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    "Magic, Wit, and Drama in Regency England"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    What other book might you compare Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell to and why?

    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.


    What about Simon Prebble’s performance did you like?

    He did a great job with characters' voices and transitioning to and from the many footnotes in the story.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Huntington Beach, CA, United States 09-21-12
    John Huntington Beach, CA, United States 09-21-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Highly recommend. A very unique style of writing."

    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!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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