Review : Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

14201Title : Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Author : Susanna Clarke
Published : September 8th 2004 (first edition)


At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England–until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.
Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

Rating :


I want to be buried with this book


“They did not want to see magic done; they only wished to read about it in books”

First, I want to say that I had the great surprise of finding out that I have an illustrated edition ! I don’t know if it’s the case for all editions of this book, but I was like a kid when I found out (“Yeah ! Pictures !”).

I loved it so much, though. This is exactly the kind of book that always fucks with my head : because the story is so complex and the research so thorough, they always plant a historical background, and at some point, I can’t make the difference between history and History anymore, I don’t quite know what’s true and what’s not (beside the whole magic thing, I’m not that far out of my mind yet). There’s so many historical figures, and historical facts, stuff taken out of English lore and legends, basically, this is exactly the kind of book that I love to read !

I loved absolutely everything about this book : the pace and the writing style – it’s actually really difficult to reconcile the writing style and the fact that this book wasn’t written some 100 years ago ; the characters in all their complexity and ambiguity, their flaws and qualities – up to the point when he comes back, I absolutely couldn’t bring myself to hate Drawlight, and the gentleman with the thistle-down hair is scary and silly but also so fascinating ; the mystery – I was so curious about Childermass though, that I can’t help but be a little bit disappointed ; the progression in the story ; Jonathan Strange and Arabella are so touching and adorable, so for me, the ending was perfectly bittersweet.

I loved that the restoration of English magic wasn’t as easy as they would have thought. I choose the quote above because I felt like it was a recurring theme, between the theoretical magicians who prefer to learn about past magic instead of making their own, and all the supernatural things happening to people who are the least likely to believe it, it does seem that no one’s ready for it. Even the two main characters : Mr Norrell is too selfish and so terrified at the idea that there might be tons of other magicians out there that he becomes completely blind to any magic that isn’t done by Jonathan or himself, doesn’t even entertain the idea ; and Jonathan Strange is, at first, both too obsessed with magic and too much ignorant of its history to recognize it when it happens just under his nose ; and the rest of the world has been deprived of magic for so long, and their minds have grown so practical that they barely notice it, let alone understand it (which is completely stupid, if you ask me, if I knew for sure that magic was a real thing, I think I’d start noticing when strange, unexplainable things happen, and would start connecting all the dots back to magic, especially when it’s the only explanation that makes sense. Make an effort, people !).

Anyway, this book is a bit of a master piece, the only thing that’s missing is a little bit more information about John Uskglass and how he orchestrated all the events happening in the book, but that’s also part of the appeal. So, make way for the Raven King ! … Sorry, wrong book.

Now I’m on to watch the BBC series !


10 thoughts on “Review : Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

  1. thenightgirl says:

    I actually randomly picked this up at Goodwill a few months back knowing nothing about it. Then I found out it was being made into a television show. I haven’t read or watched it yet but this review makes me want to push it up on my TBR list.


  2. Libby @ Through the Wardrobe says:

    Like you, I really loved this book – the footnotes make it in my opinion! It was just so in-depth but completely interesting and accessible. I tried watching the TV series but it just didn’t grab me as much as the book did so I didn’t stick with it for very long.


    • Marina | BookPoisoning says:

      I’ve seen so many people complaining about the footnotes and I’m like “But that’s the best part !!”. And as for the show, I did like it, but as much as the book. I thought the cast was really great, but everything was happening too quickly, and of course, it lacked the narrator’s tone which makes the story so amusing. I’m so disappointed with what they’ve done with the gentleman with the thistle-down hair. In the book, he made me crack up, but at the same time I didn’t forget that he was insane and selfish, and the show didn’t really manage to translate that…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Libby @ Through the Wardrobe says:

        Totally with you, the footnotes MADE that book for me – I’m not sure how easy they were to read on the Kindle edition though as I had the hardcopy. Oh I might give it a bit more of a chance then if its still on iPlayer – it will just make me want to do a reread though!


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