Home My Account Policies Kids Teens Library Staff Join the Friends Online Catalog Useful Websites
Search our Catalog:  

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

Library Journal : This book's rather lackluster title does a grave disservice to a story of tremendous imagination and exquisite style. First novelist Clarke recounts the struggle of two English magicians to return their craft to the level of professional respect it commanded during the medieval golden age. It is 1806, and with the Napoleonic Wars raging, England calls upon Mr. Norrell, a prudent, practiced magician-scholar, to fend off the little general once and for all. Then along comes Jonathan Strange, a handsome and reckless aristocrat who tries his hand at magic and quickly excels. Admirers of Austen will find much to entertain them as they read of the magicians' travails (Norrell takes on Strange as a pupil), English economic ills, and the much darker, more dangerous forces of the Faerie world. This tour de force is sure to appeal to fans of Charles Palliser and Diana Gabaldon and anyone who appreciates a distinctive voice. Highly recommended for all public libraries.—Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publishers Weekly : The drawing room social comedies of early 19th-century Britain are infused with the powerful forces of English folklore and fantasy in this extraordinary novel of two magicians who attempt to restore English magic in the age of Napoleon. In Clarke's world, gentlemen scholars pore over the magical history of England, which is dominated by the Raven King, a human who mastered magic from the lands of faerie. The study is purely theoretical until Mr. Norrell, a reclusive, mistrustful bookworm, reveals that he is capable of producing magic and becomes the toast of London society, while an impetuous young aristocrat named Jonathan Strange tumbles into the practice, too, and finds himself quickly mastering it. Though irritated by the reticent Norrell, Strange becomes the magician's first pupil, and the British government is soon using their skills. Mr. Strange serves under Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars (in a series of wonderful historical scenes), but afterward the younger magician finds himself unable to accept Norrell's restrictive views of magic's proper place and sets out to create a new age of magic by himself. Clarke manages to portray magic as both a believably complex and tedious labor, and an eerie world of signs and wonders where every object may have secret meaning. London politics and talking stones are portrayed with equal realism and seem indisputably part of the same England, as signs indicate that the Raven King may return. The chock-full, old-fashioned narrative (supplemented with deft footnotes to fill in the ignorant reader on incidents in magical history) may seem a bit stiff and mannered at first, but immersion in the mesmerizing story reveals its intimacy, humor and insight, and will enchant readers of fantasy and literary fiction alike.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

School Library Journal : Adult/High School–This delightful first novel exerts a strong and seductive pull on readers who might otherwise balk at its length. Like Philip Pullman's work, it is dark, deep, and challenging. It compares dead-on with Jane Austen's novels, and YAs who have underappreciated her wit may find it delicious when applied to magicians. Clarke even tosses in a bit of Dickens and Hardy–with great characterization, subplots, and a sense of fate bearing down hard on us. At stake is the future of English magic, which has nearly dwindled to all theory by the early 1800s, after centuries of prominence. When the book opens, only the reclusive and jealous Gilbert Norrell is practicing. Enter Jonathan Strange, a natural who has never studied magic formally. Norrell resents, then adopts Strange as a pupil whose growth he insists on controlling until the two come to the impasse that nearly leads them to destroy one another. Strange champions the 12th century's "Raven King" as the greatest magician in English history and hopes to summon him from Faerie, an alternate world. Norrell is determined to erase both from English memory–to hide the fact that he himself made a bargain with a fairy that has cost three people their lives, though their hearts go on dismally beating. Expertly written and imagined, the book is a feast for fans of fantasy, historical novels, or simply fabulously engrossing reads.–Emily Lloyd, formerly at Rehoboth Beach Public Library, DE

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms