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)
Sadly, this is indeed the Charles Dickens of wizardry novels. I feel the story needed a heavy handed editor. I often found myself wishing I could have spent more time with some of the minor characters then hours wasted on sleepy, lengthy details on interior decor, for example. Some chapters just seemed to be pointless filler, like the Spanish war chapters. It's almost like the author has 5 or 6 dissimilar novels in her, and stuffed it into one instead.
I loved how the end finally formed out, loved how the characters stay true to their imperfect natures in the end. I just wish we could have traveled there a little faster.
Save your credits, this novel is over done and not very clever. If you're looking for Harry Potter for simple minded adults, this may be for you. The interesting phases of victorian england are totally lost with this one.
I kept thinking to myself that I didn't know how she would write her characters out of this or that rabbit-hole, and she DID! I loved how they got into that hole in the first place. I would re-read this book because of Ms. Clarkes superior command of language, and how she made a rare success of fully fleshing-out each of her main characters.
It's a little like Harry Potter on steroids for grownups.
This is a great example of an audio book surpassing the actual thing. I'd had this book on my shelf for years, and continuously had trouble getting into it. But Simon Prebble is a genius. He brings not only the characters to life--he brings the brilliant writing and dry wit to life...and I think those of us who are Americans probably need his help. I seriously did not realize how hilarious the book was until listening to this. Overall, the book really is too long--but the audio never ceases to entertain. I found it enjoyable all the way through.
I'd recommend this book even to non-fantasy readers--it's not a typical fantasy and reads more like a cross between historical fiction and Jane Austen (that is, if Jane Austen wrote interesting plots).
I have the hardcopy of this book and I had tried to read it at least 3x but simply couldn't get into it. The audio version is simply delightful though. The story wanders and ambles a bit in the beginning but the direction toward the end is just so fantastic you have to believe it will have a sequel.
It took me forever to get through this book. The pace is very slow, the action is almost nonexistent (and when it does exist, it is presented in such an understated way that you can't really get caught up in it). The book rambles on just for the sake of rambling and spends hours introducing characters and plot lines that turn out to be completely irrelevant (and which aren't even revisited prior to the novel's end, leaving the reader with unanswered questions and a sense that the author lost track of what she was writing about). You spend 30 hours building up to a finale that is anticlimactic and abrupt. This book could be great if it were half as long with all the extraneous material cut, but as written, it's like watching paint dry.
A good read, but does not carry the reader into a great story, as other books do. LOTS of references to footnotes throughout the book, which slows it down. Also, long, burdensome descriptions of things that do not involve the storyline. Overall, not gripping, just ‘good’.
In this book, Susanna Clarke brings a fresh, inventive twist to storytelling that I found most enjoyable. Throughout the book, she succeeds in combining factual events and historical characters with the mystical, nether-realm of magic. It is a style very much like Dickens. In fact, I felt as though I were listening to a work of Dickens throughout.
Simon Prebble does a wonderful job with the narration, creating distinct characters and setting the dark mood of the work successfully at every turn.
As enjoyable as this book is, it is not for the undisciplined listener. It is long and demands attentiveness.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell reads like a novel written in the time period it describes. Susanna Clarke captured the spirit and wit of the early 19th century completely brilliantly. The story itself is fun, with a bit of magic and a lot of nods to actual events and persons of the age. Mr. Green's reading is absolute perfection - he grasps the sarcastic tones and emotions of the characters quite well, and had me laughing out loud while walking down the street, earning me a few stares. The novel itself merits a 4-star rating, but Mr. Green gave it that extra little *something* that can't be obtained by reading alone.
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