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I borrowed Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell from the library, hoping it would be a lively story of two feuding wizards. Instead, the author spends so much time explaining magic (history, theory and practice) that the characters fail to develop beyond this one aspect of their lives. The true disappointment for me was the unusual ending. How could a knowledgeable wizard get into such a mess?
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
That said, the author does successfully create a magical England separate from the one we know from history books. I find the comparisons to The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to be inaccurate, this book having a more scholarly tone than either of them.
I found the book to be average, well written and clever, but with not enough for the characters to do to show the reader who they are.
I purchased this novel in a charity shop having never heard of them before. I know one should never judge a book by its cover, however it was this that lead to what i now see as one of my most treasured impulse buys!!!!
I was gripped throughout following the fate of the main characters. At times i was reminded of Poe's dark tales which i think are reflected in this fantasy.
The author's use of foot notes builds a world which is so completeley believable explaining every detail of the character's motivations and actions. I love it, a fabulous feast for my imagination what more could I ask for! More Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell please Ms Clarke!!!
I loved this book. I kept forgetting that the footnotes were fiction and not the real magical history of England. I was drawn in from page one and never tired of the detail or the characters. The meandering way that the story progresses was not bothersome for me, but I can see how it would be for some people who are used to a more "to the point" style. All in all, this was a wonderful read, but it is not for everyone.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
A novel with many rewards for those who are patient! Definitely not for you if you need instant gratification -say you much prefer USA Today to the Times, or you don't find Dan Brown's writing style choppy, or you never read non-fiction books-if that's you, don't bother picking this up, you won't be happy, so just wait for the movie.
Has a wonderful hypnotic quality to it, you can find yourself feeling you've been time travelling when you put it down. Don't give yourself a deadline reading this -it wants to be savored. I have been a great fan of old spooky tales by M.R .James for many years and I found this reminded me of his writing -has that marvellous old Antiquarian feel about it. The footnotes are almost a companion volume, in some sections I enjoyed them more than the main narrative, but those who want an easy read might be distracted. I actually "googled" John Uskglass at one point because I wasn't sure any longer what was based on lore and legend and what was created for this book -to me, that means the artist has succeeded in creating myth, how often do we get that? Perhaps that's the reason for the comparisons to Tolkien or J.K. Rowling, this success in creating a world -unless it's as I've heard and this is the first book of a planned trilogy -the ending definitely points to a continuation as well.
My only criticism is a small one-I did initially find all the exclamation points ("Oh!" a few or more times per page) a bit jarring. I felt at one point that even tho' it IS a book about magic it's a little wearing when they all seem to be in a constant state of mild shock. After some time I became used to it, but I do wonder how she got that past her editor. That said, I find short choppy chapters much more upsetting, tho' I am a huge film buff, there are screenwriters to translate stories to film sequences, I don't need or want film shamelessly pandered to on the page!
I think if you enjoy reading history, classic literature or M.R. James, James Peake, and H.P. Lovecraft and the Arkham House authors you will be sorry to turn the last page. Ms. Clarke has woven history, legend and the fantastic into a seemless whole and I would be happy to return to the England of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell -not to mention John Uskglass....
The length of the book seems intimidating but I found it fascinating and very clever. I did not tire of it. Extremely enjoyable and the author's careful research of basic history make it seem almost true..
It would be easy to believe the footnotes are real. Certainly they are realistically written and very clever.
I am an avid reader and was excited about this book. I read almost 400 pages before I put it down. Nothing about the plot or characters grabbed me. I did not care what happended to the characters (and felt like nothing ever would). I enjoyed the writing style--at first--but after a while it started to feel very dry. I knew my reading of it was over when I started to dread picking it up and then when I caught myself skimming pages. The footnotes left me flat; I felt they were a distraction from the story. The potential was there, and I guess I can see how others would enjoy it, but I felt that it was too bogged down in details without any significant story progress.
I am surprised to find any nay-sayers for this story. When I finished I had the delightful dual sensations of sorrow that I had finished a story that had so drawn me in and joy that I had had the opportunity to partake in such a story as is provided by Ms. Clarke.
This story was written as all stories should be. She took ten years to research, write, and refine. Each character is clearly thought out. And no parts of the story could be removed without a change to the plot. Ms. Clarke brilliantly built this story without any extraneous material; it constantly builds upon itself.
I must admit, though, that I am surprised to read these reviews that link Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. While I suppose that, upon reflection, I can see certain similarities, I never for a moment thought of Ms. Clarke occupying shelf space beside the garishly colored fantasy novels in a book store.
This book was recommended to me by the only person whose every recommendation has been excellent; I only hope that the surpassing quality of Ms. Clarke's story will be remembered.
JS just doesn’t make the grade. The characters had the potential to be interesting, the plot had all the right elements of suspense, and the concepts were good, but it simply missed the mark. The style was dry and slow, more like an out-dated textbook than a fiction novel.
About 3/4 of the way through the book the style changed – this section of the book was very well written and showed me how the rest of the book could have been. Sadly the author lost the thread, and the ending was a true disappointment (no details here... if you want to find out what happens read it yourself!).
The bottom line is that this book had the potential to be truly incredible but the writing was dry and uninspired and highly mediocre.