Townhouse Books

Monday, October 31, 2005

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell : Susanna Clarke

It's as though I've been enchanted. I know deep down that the sometimes wavering quality of this book does not warrant my utter obsession over it, but nonetheless obsessed I have been. The plot: Two magicians destined bring magic back to England in the 1800s. Intertwining stories, cruel fairies, folk lore and mythologies galore, random footnotes mostly worth reading, extraordinary magic, a Raven King, shocking turns of events, English manners, humor, darkness and delight all over.

That book near left me giddy.

Except when I left it behind on a trip. I was leaving Minneapolis last Sunday, and on the way to the airport with a wail of despair I suddenly noticed I'd left the book on my friends' couch where I had been reading it before packing. I'd so been looking forward to two and a half hours of uninterrupted reading on the flight. It was too late to turn around, the airport did not have the book, a desperate attempt to find it at Target late that night yielded no results. Luckily I bought it on Monday. If you have not read this and are interested in being part of the book exchange, let me know and I'll send out a copy to you.


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  • I was so incredibly excited when I saw Jonthan Strange was on your list. I read it over a weekend and was just mesmerized. I love the cruel / vaguely insane fairy archetype (Neil Gaiman? Robin McKinley? That Lord Dunsany dude? All use that archetype too, I think.)

    And I'd totally agree that the book is uneven. I think you pegged it. I can't think of examples off the top of my head, but there were a couple of places where the writing was stage-y and forced enough to toss me out of the book. But the final fourth is just thrilling, and somewhat heartbreaking, and thrilling.

    Some of the Amazon reviews described it as fantastic historical fiction, which is maybe closer to the tone and pacing than just describing it as "fantasy for adults".

    By lillygog, at 4:36 PM  

  • Sounds perfect for me! I'd love to babysit your extra copy, if you don't mind.

    By Anna, at 6:32 AM  

  • I should also add: I don't think our brave reviewer called it adult fantasy (heh), but that's how it's being marketed.

    Really, as a first novel it's an incredible achievement. I can't wait to see what she does next.

    By lillygog, at 9:03 AM  

  • Anna - Deal! Will mail in within a week. And I actually read the Idiot Girl's guide you'd sent me on the airplane. It passed the time well and distracted me from the loss of the book.

    Amander - the somewhat heartbreaking part of it caught me completely by surprise. Amazing that it was her first novel. Yeah, looking forward to her next thing too.

    By evt1618, at 11:39 AM  

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