Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Monday, August 31, 2020


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Susanna Clarke, 2004

Hugo Winner - 2005

Premise: In the early 1800s, Englishmen study magic, but don’t have any practical abilities, until Mr. Norrell. He and Mr. Strange seek to bring magic back to England, but they will contend with mundane politicians, fairy lords, and their own rivalry. 

I read this book back when it was new, and I remember liking it, but I remembered nothing about the characters or plot when I picked it up to reread it.

It’s been a couple weeks since that reread as I sit down to write this, and I’m already forgetting it again. 

The style is striking and strong - I like the dry humor of the footnotes and the surreal way that the magic is described. The multiple plots weave delicately in and out of each other.

But the many characters are mostly ciphers, and the major plot element of the two women trapped or tormented by the fairy always feels strangely distant. The situation with Stephen Black is more central, but I wish it had gotten even more focus.

I guess it comes down to the fact that neither Norrell nor Strange are particularly compelling to me, so while I still like the book, it’s just not something that leaves an impression. 

2 Stars - An Okay Book

2 comments:

Tony Laplume said...

You should at least be able to remember Norrell!

Lindsay said...

That there are characters named Strange and Norrell, sure. That one of them is a fearful academic and the other talented but too brash? Anything that they actually do in the book? I remember it now, just a month later, but without writing it down, I don't know that I would remember it in a few more months...

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