Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, so Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell took me a while to read. It wasn’t because of its size, which is considerable. But we all know that even the longest book if it is well-written and entertaining, is too short. No, the reason I took so long was because I was reading the e-book. I kept putting it aside to read real paper and ink books. It isn’t as easy to disappear into the cold computer screen as it is a real book.
Still, I couldn’t help but become captivated by this tale of magic and politics and the world of Faery. Or by Clarke’s amazing writing. Somehow she combines the wit of Jane Austen, the magic of J.K. Rowling, and the horror of the Gothic writers to create an atmospheric, thought-provoking, and wholly entertaining novel. I only have a couple of complaints. The footnotes. Maybe this goes back to reading it in e-book form, but I would often be rolling along, totally immersed in the tale when I’d be interrupted by pages long footnotes which were really another story within the story. Now, many of them ended up being important to the story in the end so I’m glad I read them but sometimes it was annoying. My other complaint is that some passages were slow and boring. It is an intricate story with lots of details that seem nit-picking but end up being important later. That’s one cause. Another is that none of the main characters (save possibly Lady Pole and Mrs. Strange) are particularly likable but the reader needs to root for each of them at some point. That requires a lot of back stories and build up that can become tedious. But it is all worth it. Once you become invested in the story you have to know how it will all end.
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