Mighty reads: “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke

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Harry Potter for adults. Long thoroughly enjoyable volume. Magic told as if would be part of society. Cold British political satire soaking every page, every sentence. I would call this “action in slow motion”. Because there is action. And suspense. But a gentlemen shall move with a respectful grace. And so we shall read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell


“Neil Gaiman has promoted Clarke’s work since the beginning of her career, providing this blurb for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: “Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years.” ~ Wikipedia

“What kind of magic can make an 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, debut author Susanna Clarke is possessed by it.”
USA Today on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Ravishing…A chimera of a novel that combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien…What really sets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell apart is its treatment of magic. Clarke’s magic is a melancholy, macabre thing, confabulated out of snow and rain and mirrors and described with absolute realism … Clarke has another rare faculty: she can depict evil … [she] reaches down into fantasy’s deep, dark, twisted roots, down into medieval history and the scary, Freudian fairy-tale stuff. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell reminds us that there’s a reason fantasy endures: it’s the language of our dreams. And our nightmares.’

“Clarke’s imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty.”
The New York Times on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“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–a delight to read, both for the elegant and precise use of words, which Ms. Clarke deploys as wisely and dangerously as Wellington once deployed his troops, and for the vast sweep of the story, as tangled and twisting as old London streets or dark English woods. Closing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel after 800 pages, my only regret was that it wasn’t twice the length…. From beginning to end, a perfect pleasure.”
–Neil Gaiman, author of Anansi BoysAmerican Gods, and the Sandman series

“Immense, intelligent, inventive…Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style.”
Entertainment Weekly on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Over the course of nearly 800 pages Clarke channels the world of Jane Austen, the Gothic tale, the Silver-Fork Society novel, military adventure à la Bernard Sharpe or Patrick O’Brian, romantic Byronism and Walter Scott’s passion for the heroic Northern past. She orchestrates all these fictive elements consummately well…Many books are to be read, some are to be studied, and a few are meant to be lived in for weeks. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is of this last kind.”
The Washington Post on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Combining folklore and fantasy with horror-story imagination, [Clarke] creates a Napoleonic-era England alive with the promise–and danger–of uncontrollable forces…Clarke’s sober style keeps the fantasy grounded, and meticulous historical research brings the magical episodes to terrifying life.”
People (Critic’s choice, four stars) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“The most sparkling literary debut of the year.”
Salon on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Harper’s Bazaar on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“This 800-page work of fantasy–think Harry Potter sprinkled with the dust of Tolkien and Alasdair Gray–posits an extraordinary alternative history of England where magic, fairies, spirits and enchantments were once part of everyday life…This incredible work of the imagination, which took Clarke more than 10 years to write, ends all too soon.”
New York Post (four stars) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Here is a writer who remembers that true fairy tales carry a sting and the creatures themselves were never properly domesticated to the nursery. Her uncanny book is an object lesson in the pleasures–and risks–of enchantment.”
Village Voice on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Gorgeous…A terrific, phenomenally ambitious book.”
The Onion on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“An instant classic, one of the finest fantasies ever written.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Extraordinary…Will enchant readers of fantasy and of literary fiction alike.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“A smashing success…History and fantasy form a beautiful partnership in this detailed, authentic, and heartfelt novel.”
Booklist (starred review) on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Wonderful. At almost 800 pages, it is an immense, densely plotted story, peopled with a a vast cast of extremely well-drawn characters, filled with unexpected events, ancient prophesies,varied and exotic settings, and all manner of human and inhuman conflict, and it is built one splendid scene upon the next.”
Toronto Globe and Mail on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell comes across as equal parts Jane Austen and Charles Dickens flavored with Rowling and Tolkien. It’s inarguably one of the year’s best and most original works.”–National Post (Canada)

“Combines the wit of Jane Austen with the subterranean spookiness of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.”
Seattle Times on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“An enthralling, unique read.”
Baltimore Sun

“Witty dialogue, cunning observations, and intriguing footnotes…[A] sweeping adventure full of telling details, mixing history and fantasy to create worlds of deep imagination that seem as real as our own.”
San Francisco Chronicle on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“While Jonathan Strange is every bit as whimsical and playful as the Harry Potter books, it is also grave and upsetting, the very opposite of comforting children’s entertainment…Clarke has delivered a book of universal truths and unexpectedly heartbreaking acuity.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Utterly enchanting. [Clarke’s] union of historical fiction and fantasy is fresh, it is surprising, and it will appeal to those who want nothing more than to be carried away to a world crafted by a superb storyteller.”
Denver Post on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Extraordinary…If Harry Potter is the kind of book that makes you want to be a kid again, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the kind of novel that will remind you that being an adult should be a whole lot more fun.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I found it absolutely compelling. The narrative drive is irresistible and I could not stop reading until I had finished it. The narrator’s tone is beautifully judged. It’s full of wonderfully deadpan humour and its reticence leaves the reader to make up his or her mind about the characters. I loved all the invented scholarship and was fascinated by the mixture of historical realism and utterly fantastic events. I almost began to believe that there really was a tradition of ‘English magic’ that I had not heard about. The author captures the period and its literary conventions with complete conviction. And a large part of the fun is seeing how an early nineteenth century novel copes with the impact of magic. It’s an astonishing achievement. I can’t think of anything that is remotely like it.”
–Charles Palliser, author of The Quincunx, on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

One Response to “Mighty reads: “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke”

  1. Szabolcs

    I’m reading this book myself, too. Very good one, indeed!

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