Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Guest Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Last month was a lonely month for me when my cinema buddy and guest reviewer Sarah was on holiday, but good news is that she's back! And even better she's done a review for us - although I get the impression Sarah wasn't very taken with this story!

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
- Susanna Clarke

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England--until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight. Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

This book had been sitting on my Kindle for a while, until the pull of a historical fantasy drew me in to the 19th Century world of gentleman magicians Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I started the book on my morning commute, and reached work having read.... 1%. Yes, the best part of 3/4 hour reading for 1% of book. This book is BIG. Very, very BIG. So big in fact that I regularly texted Mel things like '15%', '22%' and the very joyous '51%'!

The problem was, I couldn't work out why the book was so long. In fact, I never really worked out what the book was about! Was it human v non-human? Good v evil? A love story? A fictional treatise on magic in England? It is all of these, and also, ultimately, none of them. Being a frustrated author myself I was always taught the importance of having structure in a novel - a beginning, a middle and an end if you will. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has a beginning, and then, well, just rambles on. And on. And on.

I also couldn't work out why Susanna Clark insisted on using about a dozen Olde Worlde words. It was obvious that we were in early 19th Century England, so I'd have preferred either all Olde Worlde words, or none, as the few used just ended up looking glaringly out of place.

So, sorry Mel's Random Reviews followers, but a negative review from me for once. I personally don't recommend it, and give it 4 out of 10.


  1. Oh sad face over here. But all books do not work for all. While I, loved this one. The footnotes were awesome

  2. Aw... I'm surprised you finished it and gave it a 4. If it was rambling that much for me, I'd probably DNF it. So kudos to you for pushing on!

  3. So sorry it didn't work for you. I've been curious about this one. I've heard many talk about it. But lately with the growing bow of my shelves I've not picked up the heavy weight books as they take so long to get through. Thanks for the honest thoughts. :)