08 August 2010

Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell | Susanna Clarke

This is a book about magic, and at 864 pages it took some time to get through. The book begins in England in 1808 where we meet Mr Norrell, a theoretical and reclusive magician with a penchant for ancient books of magic. Magic hasn't been practised in England for hundreds of years, however Mr Norrell demonstrates his skills as a magician and tricks all other theoretical magicians to disband their society, thereby making him the only practising magician in England.

Unbeknownst to Mr Norrell, Jonathan Strange - who has never studied magic - finds he has a particular skill in the field and becomes Mr Norrell's pupil.

The book continually points to a complex level of magic beneath the surface and historical facts via the use of false footnotes. These footnotes are quite amusing at first, but end up dominating the pages at times and add significant bulk to the novel. They are very elaborate and I found them distracting at times. The footnotes feature on almost every second page and is something I will definitely remember long after reading this book.

Mid-way through the book I wasn't sure where the plot was heading, however towards the end it started to reach a climax and had a satisfying conclusion. Comparisons should not be made to any of the Harry Potter novels though, as they're nothing alike. Nor is there any resemblance to the fantasy element in Lord of the Rings. This is a complex and intellectual undertaking about two magicians set in an historic time, with the Napoleonic war in the background, and the magic from Faerie land being sought and studied via old and rare books.

I thought it was a good read, however a little cumbersome.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

2 comments:

KelG said...

I think I got about 50 pages into this last year and couldn't be bothered trying for longer -well done on finishing it!

Have you read the Temeraire series by Naomi Novak? Napoleon Wars and naval officers - but with dragons =) I think I read up to book 3 until I got bored... If only I had time for reading now! (Though I AM reading the latest Dean Koontz "Lost Souls" in 5 minute increments every 4 or so days!

Tracey said...

Thanks for your comments Kel, I'll check out the Temeraire series, I haven't come across is before now.

I haven't read any books in the Frankenstein series by Koontz. Have you read them all? Would you recommend them?