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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

The novel is not about the fight between good and evil but rather the differences between madness and reason.

My latest book from the library is really interesting - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - which has won both the Hugo award and the World Fantasy award for best novel for 2005, and which is soon to be made into a movie as well. As Wikipedia states, it is ...

An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centering on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundary between reason and madness.

I'm listening to the audio version which is very long, 32 hours (the average novels is about 7-15 hours long), and I hope I can finish it before I have to give it back to the library. I've only just begun it but I really like it so far.

Here's just the beginning of the 2004 review of the book in The New York Times ....


'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell': Hogwarts for Grown-Ups

here is a great deal of magic in books nowadays,'' Mr. Norrell says. He's right. The publishing world has been under a weird enchantment since She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (but her initials are J. K. R.) came out with the first Harry Potter novel. Susanna Clarke, it has been reported, began writing ''Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,'' her massive novel of magic and magicians, before the recent re-emergence of literary fantasy as a popular commodity. Nonetheless, she has reaped the benefits of the marketplace with a big advance from Bloomsbury, Rowling's own British publisher. An imaginative (and aggressive) marketing campaign aims to deliver her book, as if by magic, to the top of the best-seller list. Clarke's novel, I'm pleased to say, just about deserves the fuss.

The plot -- do you have an hour or two? -- can be summarized thus: a Yorkshire magician named Gilbert Norrell arrives in London in 1806. He intends singlehandedly to rehabilitate the reputation of English magic, a subject long deemed more suitable for academic scrutiny than for practical application. Though lacking in charisma, Mr. Norrell makes his reputation by publicly bringing the dead young fiancee of a cabinet minister back to life. Soon the young Jonathan Strange -- talented, handsome and impetuous -- arranges to study at Mr. Norrell's side, only to set himself up in trade as competition. Jonathan Strange affects the course of the Napoleonic wars, and has the luck to meet and perhaps inspire Lord Byron, Shelley and Mary Shelley, but he loses his wife to the faerie realm. Meanwhile, a figure from mythic history, John Uskglass (Oberon with attitude), moving beneath and beside the early 19th century, is attempting to set upon the throne of England a king to rival the current occupant, the befuddled George III ......



Anonymous Todd said...

A movie? That should be an interesting Hogwartsian adaptation.

I read the book about a year after it came out, and I found it fascinating. Deserving of its awards.

4:31 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Todd,

Yes, so far I like it very much. I'm also looking at the library for an audio version of a book you mentioned once on your blog - The Speed of Dark. That sounded good too.

1:55 PM  

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