Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Susanna Clarke

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Another RHC style review of a particulary good alternative to Harry Potter...

Submitted: March 21, 2008

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Submitted: March 21, 2008



“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never could.”

If you're looking for a book beyond Harry Potter then the debut novel of Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a good choice. It's very long, like Harry Potter. It is actually three books combined into one. Erm, kind of like Harry Potter. It is about magic. Like Harry Potter.

But that's about where the similarities end. The whole book is a intoxicating fusion of a historical society Jane Austen novel and the bizarre dark, mysterious battle of magic created by Ursula K. Le Guin in The Wizard of Earthsea.
The plot revolves around the struggles and conflicts of two 'modern' magicians, of which the book takes its name, and how they choose to use their magic to restore its former glory in England.

What makes this book fascinating is the sheer amount of detail that goes into the whole history and setting of the fictional world that Clarke creates. You will often find yourself reading whole novellas just in the footnotes; which are still fascinating.  Also, whereas so often in fiction there is a 'magic solves all plot holes' view, in this novel a central theme is that magic is restricted; both by the society in which the magicians live in, and the forces beyond what they know.

Finally, some age old advice: The book is about to be made into a film, so if you can't be bothered to read it; wait for the film.

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