Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jonathan Strange &Mr Norrell

by Susanne Clarke
5-12 April 2010, 1006 pages.
One thousand pages in one week, though I assume the time taken is only around three hours if read continuously.
The language borders on a bit difficult.
However don't be discouraged  by the above, as the book is worth the length.

The story revolves around two magicians, Norrell and his pupil Strange, who were destined to bring magic back to England, Based in the Napoleon(Victorian?) Era, the book follows the magics, opinions and differences between these two magician in their attempt to restore magic back to its glory of the Aureate Era.

Why I read the book?
I was blog-hopping and the blogs were on the subjects of Pet Society when I happen to read this post. It struck me that if a book can leave such a deep impression which someone can visualize it like in the post, then the book must have great qualities. Plus I've heard about the book for a while though the dull cover did stop me from picking it up a few years ago.

About the book:
It is as if Charles Dickens wrote a book with the thought that magic is normal in everyday life.
What I like about  it:
  • The characters are rather eccentric and each of those mentioned, plays big role up till the end, event an African butler named Stephen Black. One might argue the main characters do not even add to ten but considering how all of them are woven together in 1000 pages and without boring the readers, is an exceptional feat.
  • There are footnotes all over the book (like in Wikipedia), with reference to this and that, as if there are really real. These footnotes are sometimes funny while other times sound academic, though all of them generally add to the magical atmosphere of the book.
  • The languages are fun to read; there are jokes that are thrown once in a while, not jokes that will make you laugh out loud but rather the ones that make people chuckle and smile.
  • The book introduce reader to magic in stages, from solemn and only theatrical, to practical magic with technical applications, and later fair magic with its cunningness and in the end to simply magical magic. I’ve never read book like this, for books either tend to be fairy like or practical from start to the end.
  • For those who like illustrations, there are some accompanying the story every few chapter. Though personally I don’t quite like them as they seem charcoal drawing and the very dark silhouette quite disturb me.

I only have two small qualms, one at the beginning and one at the end. The first is that the book is has not wide enough for a book with its number of pages. It annoyed me that I took the liberty to flex the spine, which I don't like to do since it leaves marks across the spine.
 The crack on the spine. Oh well, small matter anyway.

The other thing that I would like to say is that the ending is a bit abrupt and quite unexciting compared to the rest of the book. I'm not sure if we share the same view but it's worth mentioning Neil Gaiman commented and it was a blurb on the book, "Closing Jonathan Strange&Mr Norrell after 800 pages, my only regret was that it wasn't twice the length."
*Neil Gaiman probably read another printing.

All in all, a book recommended for readers who like Charles Dickens AND magic.
There's an official website for the book: Jonathan Strange&Mr Norrell which also features its sequel,The Ladies of Grace Adieu.
Surprisingly this Jonathan Strange is the first of Susanne Clarke, which I'm sure will be followed by more in the coming years

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