Thursday, July 6, 2017
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Now THIS is what I'm talking about! This is the kind of book that changes literature in a direction that I'd love to see. Even though it only came out a few years ago in 2006, it feels like something straight out of traditional literature. Let's just dive in so we can talk about it.
England during the Regency era is devoid of the magic that once filled the country. Now only salty old "theoretical" magicians exist anymore, drinking brandy and arguing about this or that in their very important conferences. That is until Mr. Norrell, the first practical magician in four hundred years comes to England with the intention of bringing back English magic. Along with Norrell comes Jonathan Strange, a young man whom Norrell takes on as a pupil and the two begin on an apprenticeship turned rivalry that will redefine the war, the country, and the world.
One beautiful aspect of this book is that there's professional level world building in it. This is a vast and rich and detailed world that feels so very real to everyone who reads it. If magic did exist in the world, it would be just like this. It wouldn't just be swish-and-flick-now-everything's-dandy that you find in other places. There are rules, there are conditions, there are risks and everything else that's inconvenient, certainly, but real. I believe that this world could actually exist and that this could actually have happened should early 1800s England got its hands on some magic.
The characters are all just brilliantly done. The cast in this book is very wide and there are a lot of names and faces to remember but, the thing is, I remember them all! I have no problem remembering who is who in this story. Even with names like Segundus, Vinculus, Childermass, and the like I always knew who I was dealing with and how they fit into the story. I also really liked that our two titular characters were not perfect by any means. They're not honorable heroes who always do what's right and are upstanding, golden examples of perfection. Norrell is antisocial, selfish, and stubborn and convinced that his way of doing things is the right way, but also humble and meek. Strange is brash, inattentive, and sometimes can come off a bit heartless (especially in regards to his wife) but also excitable and friendly. Everyone is relatable, everyone is real and not just shoved into stereotypical archetypes.
The biggest complaint that people seem to have with this book is that it's too long and the footnotes distract too much from the story and...yeah, I don't agree. The footnotes and the stories and bits of history that they contain just add to the fact that this lady has easily created a whole world. She's left nothing up to the imagination. She's thought about everything that could possibly happen in this world and left it for the reader to discover on their own. It builds the world up wonderfully and just helped with the realism of it all. Yes, a book about dueling magicians is realistic. Not over the top or cliche. Much like the masses within the book who are divided on which side of the rivalry they believe to be the right one, the reader can also discover for themselves who is in the right. Personally, I found myself to be more of a Norrellite. I guess I just sympathize with curmudgeons who stay at home all day and read books (I can't imagine why).
Just wonderful. I thought this was great. Long winded and over detailed? Meh, complaints for the weak, I say! Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is intriguing, captivating, full of depth and character and well earns its place on the Shelf of Recommendation!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next Time: This chick could definitely give Poison Ivy a run for her money....