From the book jacket:
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.
Set in early 19th century England, this book is historically accurate
in almost every way, except for one fundamental difference; in Clarke's world,
English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants
at their beck and call, but by the early 1800s practical magic has died out,
leaving only committees of theoretical magicians. At least, practical
magic is believed to have died out until Mr Norrell, a deeply dull, reclusive
bookworm who through years of diligent study has taught himself the mysteries of
the ancient arts, takes his nose out...
Beyond the Book
It took Susanna Clarke 10 years to write this, her first novel; it's exceptional
not just for weighing in at about 800 pages (an extraordinary thing for a first
novel) but also for the full realized world that she creates. Many
reviewers have described it as Harry Potter for adults. To the extent that
it's a book about magic set in a world like, but not quite like, our own, it is;
however, like most comparisons, you can only take it so far.
Interesting link: A complete short story
: "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse", part of her 2006 collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu