Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a book that has been recommended to me by several people over the past few years. When I finally got my hands on a copy, I was surprised by its size: 846 pages. Not something I was expecting. But since I am not one to shy away from reading a tome, I chose it for my first large book of the year. While I did find some portions of the story to be a bit slow, I was not disappointed.
The book is broken into three volumes and follows two magicians, Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange, on their quest to bringing magic back to England. What makes the dynamic of these characters so interesting is that they are so different from one another. Mr Norrell prefers to keep to himself and read his books of magic to learn about new spells, while Jonathan Strange wants to try the old ways of magic to learn how to adapt it in new ways. The ironic part is that while Mr Norrell warns against people utilizing the help of fairies because of their trickster ways, he asks for the help of a fairy to get his name known as a well versed magician—and lands himself in big trouble which doesn’t catch up with him until later.
Susanna Clarke’s writing style is fantastic. It reminded me a lot of Jane Austen’s writing style, and I am not the only one to describe the book as a Jane Austen novel but with magic (the cover of the book describes it similarly). The stories of the different characters weave in and out of each other, and sometimes you will be reading about Mr Norrell for a hundred pages before returning to Jonathan Strange, which can be frustrating if you are more interested in one story than another. There were definitely some story lines that I liked a lot better than others, and I would end up reading for hours hoping to get to the next part of a particular character’s story so I could find out what happens.
Even though the book is long and there are a lot of different plots branching off one another, Clarke does an excellent job at connecting them and ending it all nicely without leaving any questions left unanswered. By the end, I was left with a feeling of satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness that I got the chance to read such a fascinating story.