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)
Though the writing and imagery in Susannah Clarke's story are both brilliant, the plot is lacking any sort of serious action. It reads a bit like The Prestige, as written by James Fenimore Cooper. Often times the language overwhelms both plot and character development, slowing the already sluggish forward motion of the tale. I would reccomend this book to high school English teachers, it fits in well with the over-bearing wordage of All the King's Men and the piddling plot of The Sun Also Rises.
I'm about 4 hours in, and I still can't find much of a plot. Characters are dry, and the situations and dialog are immensely drawn out. I'll keep plodding through - perhaps it'll eventually get better. But it's awfully slow going. Makes rush hour traffic look interesting...
Much like the beginning of War and Peace this book drones on and on for hour on end, babbling about parties, society and uninteresting fluff. Around 20 hours in or so I actually found myself semi-interested in a couple of the characters...I am not sure I still do not feel robbed of those hours of my life I'll never get back.
The reader was excellent.
If you have hours to kill, and are not sleepy and driving check it out.
I have never written a review before, but feel compelled to write one for this book.
While very well written, I was very bored by the story. It took forever to get started and when it ended, I felt as if I had just seen a long art movie that probably said something important in an artistic sense, but felt like a waste of my time. There were a few compelling parts, but this made up maybe 20% of the book at most and did not make it worthwhile to listen to the rest.
It was enough that I will avoid this author completely from now on.
A marvelous, enchanting listen!
The study of magic represents the study of any subject which consumes its scholars. At once a sly take on many aspects of academia, the popular press, history and politics, and at the same time a robust revenge by the wives who must take second place to their husbands first love, their work. The writing is first rate; the reading is by far the best of any book I have listened to. Although the book is long, I was engaged throughout and sad to have it end!
Long audio books don't intimidate me, in fact I prefer them. There are many good reviews for this book, and scattered among them a number of bad reviews. I took a chance on the good reviews and downloaded the book. After 7 plus hours of listening, I had to return to the reviews to evaluate them in context of what I had heard.
The bad reviews pretty much hit the mark. If there is any real plot it must be waiting to make it's appearance in part 2 of the download. As for magic, there sure is a lot of talk about it, but very little of it on display. I don't often give up on a book, but I have learned that when I start telling friends that "I am still waiting for it to get good", it usually never does. This one took an early exit into the magical bit bucket. There must be an audience for this kind of droning story out there, but if you are at all doubtful about whether it is for you, consider the other negative reviews which all pretty much agree on the same shortcomings, and in that, they are accurate.
Do not be fooled--If you do not enjoy slow moving, character driven plots, then this book is not for you! The narrative of this story is very nicely done and fits excellently with the tone of the book and characters. Ms. Clarke has done a remarkable job of creating a world you can lose yourself in. Though lacking in action, the story of "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell" is so intricately woven that it is more like a detective novel with historical/magical elements. Fantastic read for those who will be patient with it.
The finest book I have ever listened to. I enjoyed it so much, after I listened to it on Audible I went out and bought the hard copy just to have in my library. Can't wait for a sequel!!
i am almost finished listening to this wonder. i have cried and laughed out loud. it is clever, witty, and thoroughly entertaining. simon prebble is the best narrator. he is consistent, easy to understand, and uses voices that compliment the characters. i love it!
Stiff prose and a hard to listen to reader make this fantasy chronicle--and that's really what it is--difficult to follow. The "action" isn't, and most of the characters, though well-drawn, don't compel you to either like, dislike, cheer on or boo them. No one could reasonably call this book "Harry Potter for adults" and only a history buff could call it "engrossing". It is pleasant and entertaining but it does not challenge you beyond recalling who is who and what were they doing when the author last mentioned them.
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