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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Audiobook

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

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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

4.1 (6564 )
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4.5 (4317 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Devin 05-27-12
    Devin 05-27-12 Member Since 2011

    Avid listener of Scifi and Fantasy. I've found so many great books with the help of member reviews. Hopefully I can return the favor.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clever Witty Sleeping Pill"

    I've tried and failed to finish this audiobook on several occasions, and its not for lack of trying. I stuck it out until I was at least halfway through(the 2nd time) so I believe I made it past the "slow beginning". I'm normally a fan of very long books, and I hate to give up on a story but this one just falls short for me.

    If Jane Austin and Charles Dickens had a child who wrote fantasy books, I think those books would be a lot like this. This is more a book of manners than a plot driven story. The writing is very clever and witty, but so much of the story is centered on stuffy gentlemen and ladies discussing magic in drawing rooms and parlors. Don't get me wrong, the writing is very clever and witty. You can tell author has great talent, she just focuses that talent in the wrong areas of the story.

    Judging by the other reviews a lot of people love this book. Personally I don't see the attraction. I'll admit there is some amusing dialog and the setting is well thought out, but that only goes so far. Don't get me wrong this is a very well written book from a talented author, but some witty repartee can only carry a novel so far.

    For me this was a wasted credit. Listen to the sample before purchasing. It just goes to show that one person's masterpiece is another's snoozefest.

    18 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    🌺Sara🌺 01-29-14

    🌹🥀🌸🌺🌸🥀🌹

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Rambling oddity"
    Any additional comments?

    I really could not connect with this book. I listened and waited for it to take off and engage and it just never happened for me. It was like reading sketches for a novel all strung together with such loose cohesion that it boggled the mind. I kept hoping that an editor would step in and make some sense of the whole thing. Parts of it are excellent but to me the whole was a disappointment.

    49 of 60 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon D Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 09-07-08
    Sharon D Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 09-07-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hard to Follow"

    I wasn't keen on this audiobook. I found I had to keep re-winding in order to recall what was going on in the story. There are many characters, and the plot is not well suited to an audio format. I think I will buy the hard copy of the book as I suspect I would enjoy reading the story.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol 10-19-07
    Carol 10-19-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful"

    This book is a delight. It's a wonderful combination of wit, sentiment, fantasy, and a reference back to the great literature of the past. A truly adult fantasy where "adult" means literary merit and intelligence, not sexuality. I read it some years ago and liked it but decided to listen to it again. I found the listening experience even better than reading it. A great narrator and a fine, fine book. I also recommend Clarke's "The Ladies of Grace Adieu", set in the same world as "Strange and Norell". I just wish she'd write another book soon, I can't wait.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly PLYMOUTH, MN, USA 09-14-05
    Kelly PLYMOUTH, MN, USA 09-14-05 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I didn't want it to end."

    This is not a book for individuals with attention spans the size of fruit flies.

    Yes, it is long. Yes, it takes some imagination and thoughtfulness to appreciate. There are those however, who appreciate an author who doesn't insult our intelligence or try to manipulate us by telling us exactly how we should feel in every scene. If you need your story spoon-fed to you and refuse to do any of the intellectual heavy lifting required to appreciate good writing then this book probably isn't for you.

    The story ultimately belongs to Jonathan Strange and his evolution from a callow and self-centered life of privilege to a man scarred by the losses of war and a literal darkness. Mr. Norrell's narrative is that of a man grown old, fearful of losing what he has, to see that it's nothing at all if he has no one to share it with. In this sense, it is NOT a story about magic, but about PEOPLE. It is the story of the relationship between Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, between Jonathan Strange and his wife, between Mrs. Strange and Mrs. Pol, between Mrs. Pol and The Man with the Thistledownhair, and so on... very rich, complex, interesting relationships.

    This book has many rewards for those who open themselves to its beautiful language and the way its story unfolds - with grace and dignity. Not the least of its rewards is how Mr. Segundus' steadfast faith and love for the study of magic is rewarded in the end. It is unfortunate that it has been unfairly maligned in the reviews for not being what some people think it should be, which is shallow and unreflective.

    21 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 12-16-10
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 12-16-10 Member Since 2016

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worth it in every respect"

    When I read/listen to a book this long, I feel compelled to contribute something back if with nothing else: a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. So many of the reviews here also refer to the length of the book. In the beginning hours, like others, I asked myself if this was going to be worth it. And, like many of the reviews, my answer is an unequivocal: hang in there... it’s worth it.

    The Publisher’s Summary pretty well outlines the story. It fails, however, to convey the incredible skill with which the story is crafted in writing and delivered in narration. In parts, the book is incredibly witty and throughout quite dry. But hey, it is after-all English. And, as the English would say, this book is very, very clever.

    Can you be engaged in some other mental activity while listening and enjoy this piece to its fullest? I think not. The book requires your attention. It is not so singularly dimensional as perhaps a Robert Jordan WOT story. While it might be successfully compared to a Harry Potter novel, this is probably not a book that would be enjoyed as much by youngsters as it would by an adult. To appreciate the richness and detail of this story, it probably takes a bit more patience than that possessed by most first-person-shooters. It does not, however, take an artist to appreciate its beauty.

    It seems difficult for some to call and others to recognize anything fantasy as classic literature. If we are still around in a couple hundred years, people will refer to this book as a classic.

    18 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Minger Alameda, CA USA 08-30-15
    Patricia Minger Alameda, CA USA 08-30-15 Member Since 2012

    kittypuppymom

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Superb!"

    Loved sinking into the story, the twists and turns. Dickensian in some ways, fascinating! Read wonderfully well by Mr. Prebble.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica CORDOVA, TN, United States 05-28-14
    Jessica CORDOVA, TN, United States 05-28-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not what I was Expecting"

    I don't know if I would have finished this if I was reading an actual book. I love the idea of the story, and the details, but got bogged down in all of the minutiae. The footnotes were amusing, and the narrator did a wonderful job.

    In the end, I was not disappointed that I listed to it, but I am not as much of a fan as others are.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip Arlington, TX 11-30-12
    Phillip Arlington, TX 11-30-12 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "**NOT**Harry Potter for Grownups!"

    I can't emphasize enough that this book is not "Harry Potter for grownups." When searching the internet for reviews of this book, this was the most common description I got. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, aside from being concerned with English magic, has very little in common with the Harry Potter series. If you begin this book with the expectation of action-packed accounts of dueling wizards fighting to rid the world of an evil sorcerer, then you will be sorely disappointed. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is much closer to a Jane Austen or Charles Dickens novel than it is to any of J.K. Rowling's offerings.

    That being said...this is one of the best books I've read in quite a while. It is a wonderful example of pastiche that uses the style it is imitating to great humorous effect without belittling it in any way. The characters, especially those of Strange and Norrell, but the supporting cast as well, are well developed and fully realized. I especially enjoyed those aspects of the story that play on the comedy of manners genre and found them particulary humourous, though it is a very British brand of humor.

    On the whole, I suppose the book would be best described as an alternate history. Much of it takes place among the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and there are scenes involving King George III in the grips of madness. Strange, after an apprenticeship under Norrell, becomes the official magician to the Duke of Wellington and plays an integral role in his triumph in the Peninsular War and, later, at Waterloo.

    After returning to England, Strange and Norrell's relationship dissolves and each of them sets himself on a path to destroy the other. This continuing battle is exacerbated by the actions of a devilish character acting on the fringes of their world and who may, or may not, be human.

    However one wishes to describe it though, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was the winner of the 2005 Hugo Award and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Georgetown, Tennessee, United States 11-05-12
    Andrew Georgetown, Tennessee, United States 11-05-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I tried, but couldn't"
    What would have made Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell better?

    Not even sure.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    I've already started Blood of Eden Book 1.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Simon Prebble’s performances?

    The narrator did a good job.


    What character would you cut from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell?

    Not the characters, but the annotations/quotations were quite cumbersome.


    Any additional comments?

    The story was very slow and bogged down. I plan on returning the book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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