Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susannah Clarke

I was seduced by the cover of this book. If memory serves me correctly I was in a branch of Waterstones just off Oxford Street and spotted the jet monochrome dustcover – jet black with one white image and writing.

I don’t think I even noticed that Mr Norrell was part of the title for ages – it was the name Jonathan Strange that stood out.

So what’s it about? Well, it’s basically a story about the revival of magic in Britain, led by Mr Norrell and then his companion Jonathan Strange.

It’s a pretty hefty tome and full of incredibly detailed description and entertaining footnotes that all go to building up an imaginary England where magic is key to making things happen.

There have been many glowing reviews of the book, but I am not quite as enamoured with the book. Sure, it’s an impressive achievement, especially as a debut novel, but it’s quite a laboured read at times and demands considerable stamina in the reader.

I’m not suggesting that reading shouldn’t be taxing at times, but sometimes Jonathan Strange feels just a bit too much like hard work. I stopped and started the book a couple of times before I finished – never a good sign in my opinion – and sometimes the story just failed to engage.

I also found Mr Norrell a slightly un-endearing character which made the segments with him less interested to read.

However, if you like fantasy literature and something far more rigorous than the likes of Harry Potter, then maybe Jonathan Strange will suit you. As for me – well, 6.5 out of 10.


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