“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clark

“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna ClarkJonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark
Published: 2006 by Tor
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 1006
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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In my epic quest to find a decent fantasy novel, I came upon Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.  I really really wanted to like this book.  I’d read good reviews on Amazon, and when I read the preview chapter, the writing seemed decent enough.

Normally I’d add a bit of a plot summary here.  One problem–there was no plot.  The characters are alright, but they don’t actually do much of anything.  I read about 500 pages of the novel before giving up; if an author can’t make something at all happen in 500 pages, it probably isn’t worth wasting my time.

The best way to describe this novel is that it is what would happen if Jane Austen tried to write fantasy.  The biggest event in the first 500 pages was when Mr. Norrell (supposedly a magician, but there was no magic actually done in the novel) went to a party.  Quite anticlimactic.

12 thoughts on ““Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clark

  1. Oh goodness. I remember taking this home from the library early on in my pregnancy and thinking, “I’ll have to give this a go later, because it’s not working for me now.” I can barely tolerate parties in real life, so if a party scene is the best thing going for the first 500 pages? Perhaps I’ll just go ahead and skip the “later”!

    1. Haha, so true. It was about 800 pages long. I really wanted to like it because I’d heard such good things, so I kept reading for a while once I realized that nothing was happening.

  2. I actually loved this book, but it took a while to get into (although giving it 500 pages is more than enough for a book you don’t like!) The footnotes made it really difficult to read — I often gloss over footnotes in books but these are packed with detail so you feel like you’ll miss out on the story if you skip them. It all came together for me but this is definitely not the book for everyone! Better luck with the next one.

    1. I think I would have liked it better if there would have been a little bit more of a story; I really did like the characters, I just wanted to see them actually do something. I’m glad you liked it.

  3. If you are at all into short stories I highly recommend Clarke’s short story collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, even with your dislike of this book. Like any short story collection it has a variety of quality of stories but overall I just love the collection. And it has beautiful illustrations by Charles Vess.

    As for a “decent fantasy novel”, have you read Stardust by Neil Gaiman? It is a beautiful fairy tale/fantasy novel. If you’ve seen the film but have not read the book allow me to say that the book is sooooo much better than the film. The film is okay but I wasn’t too thrilled with it. Others love it though. Either way, the book is fantastic.

    A short novella with fantasy elements that is a great read is Steven Millhauser’s book Enchanted Night.

    If you are wanting an epic series, the first of Patrick Rothfuss’ trilogy, The Name of the Wind, is great, and the second book is out now.

    Peter and Max by Bill Willingham is a really solid fairy tale reimagining and you do not have to have read any of Willingham’s FABLES comic series to get right into this book and its universe.

    The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia is a beautiful, melancholy book.

    The Wood Wife by Terri Windling is a mystery of sorts with a great deal of Native American folklore to it. If you like de Lint, you’ll like this. It is very, very good.

    Granted you may have read or tried all these already. Since I haven’t scanned down your blog for reading lists, etc., please forgive me if I am recommending things you’ve already read.

    1. I haven’t actually read any of them, although “The Wood Wife” is on my next Amazon list. They all sound excellent, and I’ll keep them in mind next time I get more books =)

  4. And I cannot believe I left such a long comment without recommending my absolute favorite book, Neil Gaiman’s novel, Neverwhere. Bad me!!!

  5. I did actually read and complete this book and quite liked it – but I see where you’re coming from, its a total War and Peace epic of a novel and it did sag a bit in parts (frankly and I probably shouldn’t admit this – I actually didn’t read the footnotes and that probably cut out about 40 of the novel!
    Lynn 😀

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