From my Bookshelf: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Todd has been recommending “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” and reading me funny and diverting quotes, for some time. We began to watch the recent live-action series–but it was too dense for me, so I decided to read the book first and return to the TV show later.

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Honestly, I was surprised that this was written in 2004. The language and style is that of a very much older book. The only thing that gives it away–just a bit–is the sly humor, which is aimed towards a more modern audience.

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It’s wonderfully well written, and has a cadence to it that makes it a good read-aloud.  It’s dark, funny, magical, and rather unusual. Also, the characters are three-dimensional. Four dimensional, actually, if you count magic as a dimension.  Characters go from heroes to villains and back again. Some manage to balance on the fine line between “good” and “evil” the whole book.  Allegiances shift. And the plot takes years to develop. *

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Also the prophetic poetry is very good.  Props to Susanna Clarke; prophetic poetry– if the quality of the majority of such lowly samples as I have seen is any indication– is not easy.

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Before you go off to beg, buy or borrow (please don’t steal) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, we must talk about the footnotes. The footnotes! Full of interesting side notes, explanations, illusions to in-world content, and short stories. One foot note was four pages long! Four! But it’s so interesting and relevant that I didn’t mind a bit.

I am very glad I read Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. A lovely book. Go read it.

*Be not alarmed. The book kept moving. There were only a few small bits which dragged–but I am a seasoned reader,and I plowed through. The draggy bits proved useful later on.

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