%A Susanna Clarke %T Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
A Rambling Review by Alicia Smith
I read this novel recently and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I like books that take us from the known, to the unknown, Garth Nix for example and Susanna Clarke does this really well by having a very interesting alternative Georgian period.
The language is rich and evocative. I especially liked the description of some of the ladies at the first Lost-Hope dance Stephen attends, with the lady with a gown the colour of storms, shadows and rain, and the woman with a wig of shining beetles that move around her head. Many passages fill you with wonder, and they're generally not too far off the passages that fill you with forboding.
The reader may also be forgiven for occassionally wanting to shake Jonathon Strange for being thick, and to kick Mr Norrell, for being, well, Mr Norrell.
The book often gives you footnotes which describe later or earlier history of characters, stories and events that came before or after the events in the novel. You're given a real sense of a deep, rich history, past and future of this intriguing fictional world, in the same way that Tolkein did with his languages, and Richard Adams did with his stories told by the rabbits in Watership Down. Some of the footnotes take up half the page! This is one of the most three dimensional novels I've ever written. Take all of Hugh Cook's W&W books and compress them into each other to get as all round view as this one.
It's like the author knows the place as well as her own house, which is really impressive with the section where Mr Strange goes to help the Army against Napoleon in Portugal.
I appreciate this novel because I enjoy Jane Austen, and some of the language usage is very Austen indeed. It's very interesting, it's sort of like Garth Nix's Abhorson books in some ways, in setting, only set a lot earlier, and in it's richness of language it could be a bit Gormenghastly, but is a lot more reader friendly.
It's certainly a very powerful book, well crafted, I found it difficult to put down, which at 782 large pages was a bit inconvenient at times. This book has really well crafted characters too, and I wish I'd got to know some of them better, but that would be getting away from the story. I was truly concerned for some of them.
And it has absolutely charming charcoal drawings!
There are decidely non-Victorian faery, good and nasty, there's The Raven King of the North, a figure shrouded in mystery and myth, and there's the Society of Magicians who are good at talking about magic but not doing it, and there's Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell, an unmatched pair of the unthinkable! Practising Magicians! There is lot in this book, but it's all perfectly followable. It's a *good* read.
While the language might not be to the taste of modern readers, if you've read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and enjoyed it, you should not encounter any dimming of your enjoyment of this really super first novel. Thank you, Poss, for this lovely book. ( I finally got it off Rob, to read it!)
9/10 and Good Omens as co-authored by Neal Gaimen and Jane Austen on the Sid and Nancy Scale.
Last modified February 17th, 2005, 5:47pm by leece