Reviews & Overviews by Rod Cameron

        

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is an excellent first novel by Susanna Clarke. The book is set in 1806 in an England little different from ours apart from a period of magic having come and gone. In the time of Henry I, a Faerie King invaded the north of England and ruled for several centuries. By 1806, this is a distant memory, apart from a number of societies of theoretical magic. Practical magicians have not existed for centuries until a reclusive Mr Norrell appears. He becomes an object of popularity and interest having raised a beautiful lady from the dead, and summoned and armada of ghostly ships to confuse the French. A youthful apprentice called Jonathan Strange appears, who Mr Norrell reluctantly takes on. Jonathan Strange is young, handsome and brilliant – everything Mr Norrell is not! Their secret dablings in the dark arts cause more troubles than could possibly be imagined.

This is a most unusual book. It is written in the style of an early nineteenth century book, complete with supporting footnotes. The subtle change in history makes the magical less fantastic and more mundane, and more accepted by the public. The end result is an almost plausible description of two magicians vying to outdo each other in the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

Most unusually, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has received critical acclaim form both sides of the ‘fence’. Not only was it short-listed for both the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Guardian First Book Award, but also by the science fiction community where it received the 2005 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date: 2004
Pages: 1006 Pages
Price: £7.99
ISBN:
0-7475-7988-1
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by: Rod Cameron
Date Reviewed: November 2005

Copyright : Roderick Alasdair Cameron 2001 - 2012                   rod@rodcameron.co.uk