Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Challenge: A Book with More than 500 Pages

Book: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Pages: 1,006
Date Read: 1/20-1/31/2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 

Other Categories this book could 
have fit into:
A book with nonhuman characters - most are human, but there is a fairy or two
A funny book
A book set in a different country - mostly the UK
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit - the UK and Faerie both
A book that made you cry
A book with magic - beautiful, glorious magic
A book by an author you've never read before - but I will waste no time in tracking down everything of hers I can find!
A book turned into a TV show - which is scheduled to air this year; I'm not sure if I want to see it or not
I am rather of the opinion that in England a gentleman's dreams are his own private concern. I fancy there is a law to that effect and, if there is not, why, Parliament should certainly be made to pass one immediately! It ill becomes another man to invite himself into them. 
I knew nothing about this book going into it. I bought it only because, in a piece of "fan fiction" written by one of the creators of In Earnest (is it fan fiction if it's written by one of the original authors?) Algernon stated that this was his favorite book. Since I have agreed with Algernon on his other tastes, I decided to trust his judgment, but I was wary, having no idea what I would find.

This book is perfect. I enjoyed every moment of reading it. I urge anyone who may be interested in checking it out not to be discouraged by its length; it reads very quickly and never drags for a moment. Jane Austen said, "If a book is well written I always find it too short." Even with a thousand and six pages, this book was much too short to satisfy me. Susanna Clarke has written short stories that take place in the same world, and I need to own them all. This book took me eleven days to read, and that only because I kept slowing down, not wishing for it to end.

I don't mean to over-praise this book. I hate to do that and then have someone read it by my recommendation and be disappointed. But I myself adored every moment.

The story is an alternate-history of nineteenth century England, where an English gentleman magician is trying to return magic to England. Many true historical figures are shown -- magic is used to defeat Napoleon, and one of the magicians befriends Lord Byron (though highly disapproving of him, naturally.)

The magic is wonderful. It has much basis in old mythology, and reminded me of Irish fairytales of the darker kind. There are great illusions, travels through mirrors, and other strange and wonderful things. Every time magic was performed it was delightful and surprising. I could not wait to see what new spells would be cast.

The complexity of the characters is overwhelming. There is a large cast, but each character was so distinct that I never mistook one for another and had no trouble keeping track of them all. It was a constant struggle deciding whom I liked and whom I detested, but this only added to the realistic nature of the characters; after all, it can be rather hard to decide how one feels about real people. The exception was Mr Honeyfoot, who was perfect and the very embodiment of Hufflepuff values and I just adored everything about him (except that he wasn't a main character.) The two title characters were often at odds and I vacillated between being a Norrellite and a Strangite. I'm still not quite settled, and would have to agree with Childermass in being a little of both.

One of the greatest things about this book is that it is written in a very old fashion, like the nineteenth century gothic novels, and similar in style, though very different in content, to the works of Jane Austen. However, it is written with a modern audience in mind, and as such is easier to understand than older works. The language is somehow modern and archaic at once. The pacing is much faster than old books, and the description more in keeping with modern tastes. How Clarke combined the old-fashioned feel with modern preferences is more than I can understand, but I adored reading it. The narrator, though third-person and seemingly absent, manages to come in with some wickedly sarcastic comments and a truly snarky sense of humor that I for one found hilarious (bear in mind, this is a very dry humor, and very British.)

There is no way to do justice to this book by describing it. If you are fond of old-fashioned books, tales of magic, and good writing then this book is one that I highly recommend.



Ginny-Gin-Gin said...

Thanks for recommending this to me! I'm excited to read it and, after you called my attention to it, I realized that some of my other friends had read and praised it, too! I'll let you know when I get a copy and start reading it :D

The Hot Girl in the Comic Shop said...

Yay~! Definitely let me know. I seriously need to fangirl.

Ginny-Gin-Gin said...

Haha, I'll let you know the very moment :D