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It's 1808 and that Corsican upstart Napoleon is battering the English army and navy. Enter Mr. Norrell, a fusty but ambitious scholar from the Yorkshire countryside and the first practical magician in hundreds of years. What better way to demonstrate his revival of British magic than to change the course of the Napoleonic wars? Susanna Clarke's ingenious first novel,Jonathan Strange&Mr. Norrell, has the cleverness and lightness of touch of the Harry Potter series, but is less a fairy tale of good versus evil than a fantastic comedy of manners, complete with elaborate false footnotes, occasional period spellings, and a dense, lively mythology teeming beneath the narrative. Mr. Norrell moves to London to establish his influence in government circles, devising such powerful illusions as an 11-day blockade of French ports by English ships fabricated from rainwater. But however skillful his magic, his vanity provides an Achilles heel, and the differing ambitions of his more glamorous apprentice, Jonathan Strange, threaten to topple all that Mr. Norrell has achieved. A sparkling debut from Susanna Clarke--and it's not all fairy dust.--Regina Marler
Waaaay too long, but has moments.... I agree with some of the other comments - this one REALLY needed editing. I have to say, when it's good, it's really, really good, but there were several times I almost gave up, it was so dull and plodding (the Venice part - Oh, my God, I was almost asleep during it!). I actually did stop reading it for a while, but I set myself a quest this year - 52 books read in a year, and I vowed to finish this one as one of the 52. So, I succeeded, but sometimes it was such a struggle! However, when Clarke is "on" she is very gifted and I very much enjoyed parts of the book. I found her writing style a little silly sometimes; other times it didn't bother me so much. I'd call this a cross between Harry Potter and Dickens, with the strengths and weaknesses of both. I've read all the Potter books and find them very enjoyable, and I've always loved Dickens, so I figured I'd like this book. Can't win them all, but like I said, it does have moments if you hang in there and maybe skim some of it. It's not for everyone, but then most imaginative books aren't. I definitely give Clarke points for originality, though, and look forward to seeing other work from her.
audio version simply fabulous! First, I agree w/ all the rave reviews, and yes, the book is long but well worth the effort. Though 26 disks, I highly recommend the audio version because the reading by Simon Prebble is fabulous in bringing to life the characters, particularly those of Wellington and the gentleman w/ the thistle down hair.Pure Beauty I cannot rave enough about this book; certainly I have not been moved like this by a literary work in some time. Gorgeous from start to finish- sometimes whimsical, sometimes heartbreaking, always intelligent, fresh, and full of magic. Clarke's writing is impeccable and a pure joy to read. One always has the sense that she's subtly mocking her characters even as she allows us to love (or hate!) them. The story is breathtaking and moves along with exquisite pacing. Allow yourself to be lost in her world!