Winner of the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel
A fantasy book of manners? Yes, and it works! Original and clever, this lush novel comments on the society and culture of magic. Strange and Norrell have opposing viewpoints on magic's role, and their clash provides a fabulous backdrop for this wonderful book. Just read it! It's great. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell’s mentorship turned rivalry over the use of magic, which takes place in early 19th-century England, lies at the center of this unparalleled tale, in which the foibles of humans, our relationship to the fantastic, and the lengths and limits of faith and science are told in measured wit. This book is so deserving of the many awards it has received and of its devoted and diverse fan base, for inside Clarke’s intricately constructed world of magical realism is a treasured nucleus crafted of caution, passion, intellect, and madness; Susanna Clarke has written one of the great fantasy literature crossover works of our time. Recommended By Lucinda G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.
But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.
All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.
Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more.
"Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years. It's funny, moving, scary, otherworldly, practical and magical, a journey through light and shadow-from beginning to end, a perfect pleasure." Neil Gaiman, bestselling author of American Gods and The Graveyard Book
"An instant classic, one of the finest fantasies ever written." Kirkus Reviews
"Absolutely compelling...the author captures the period and its literary conventions with complete conviction. An astonishing achievement." Charles Palliser, author of The Quincunx and The Unburied
"Clarke's imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly
and she knows how to employ dry humor....In this fantasy,
the master that magic serves is reverence for writing." Gregory Maguire, The New York Times Book Review
"Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell may or may not be the finest English fantasy of the past 70 years. But it is still magnificent and original, and that should be enough for any of us." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Clarke has written a 19th century classic; there's little doubt it will have readers clamoring for more." Rocky Mountain News
"What kind of magic can make a nearly 800-page novel seem too short?....[Clarke's] epic history of an alternative, magical England is so beautifully realized that not one of the many enchantments Clarke chronicles in the book could ever be as potent or as quickening as her own magnificent narrative." BookPage
"Clarke's ability to construct a fully imagined world...is impressive, and there are some suspenseful moments. But her attempt to graft a fantasy narrative onto such historical realities as the Battle of Waterloo is more often awkward than clever..." The New Yorker
"For all of her flights of postmodernist fancy, for all her stories about 'black towers' and magical books and hidden bridges that connect England to Faerie, Clarke has delivered a book of universal truths and unexpectedly heartbreaking acuity." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"Clarke has crafted a great, looping narrative filled with characters greater and lesser that will pique first the interest and then the sympathy of the reader....The readers will find that this tale, though long, comes to an end far too soon." Denver Post
"[I]mmense, intelligent, inventive, arid, and exhausting....Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style....Wholly original and richly imagined, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell turns out to be more admirable than lovable. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"Strange lives up to all the enticing promise of Clarke's earlier work. Her deftly assumed faux-19th century point of view will beguile cynical adult readers into losing themselves in this entertaining and sophisticated fantasy." Seattle Times
"Clarke is marvelously clever she could step right up there with J.K. Rowling. Her extensive, fictional footnotes are as amusing as they are informative....[S]plendid reading..." Detroit Free Press
"What kind of magic can make an 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, debut author Susanna Clarke is possessed by it, and her astonished readers will surely hope she never recovers." USA Today
"It may be just as well that Susanna Clarke's first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, is nearly as big as a house, since this is the kind of book you want to move into and settle down in for a long stay. It's set in a world very much like the England of the early 1800s, only in Clarke's version magic was once a daily presence and has since been lost or perhaps merely misplaced. In other words, this world resembles the world of our own reading, for most of us can remember a time when stepping into a book was like entering into an enchantment....Susanna Clarke's magic is universal." Laura Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
"The prospect of having to read an 800-page novel billed as 'Harry Potter for adults' was enough to make this weary book critic pine for an invisibility cloak. But for those of you who, like me, can't endure another charmless opening at the Dursleys', take heart: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is no Harry Potter knockoff. It's altogether original far closer to Dickens than Rowling....Move over, little Harry. It's time for some real magic." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
About the Author
Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham, England, in 1959, the eldest daughter of a Methodist minister. She was educated at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, and has worked in various areas of nonfiction publishing. In 1990 she left London to teach English in Turin and Bilbao. She returned to England in 1992 and spent the rest of that year in County Durham, where she began work on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
From 1993 to 2003 Susanna Clarke was an editor at Simon and Schuster's Cambridge office, where she worked on their cookbook list. She has published a number of short stories and novellas in American anthologies, including "Mr. Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower," which was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award in 2001.
Susanna lives in Cambridge with her partner, the novelist and reviewer Colin Greenland.