Sunday, August 31, 2008

book review: "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke

The question, “Why is no more magic done in England?” leads to the discovery of magician Gilbert Norrell. The belief that Norrell is the only magician in England proves false however, when Jonathan Strange appears and becomes his pupil. Norrell’s ambition is to bring back magic to England, and with Strange helps the country in the war against France. But a magic done for this ambition brings continuous misfortune, and the return of England’s greatest magician, the Raven King.

I would have given up reading this long novel [the paperback numbers 1006 pages] had I not wanted to know whether Lady Pole and Stephen Black would escape from the gentleman with the thistle-down hair. I would have enjoyed the book more were it in comic book format, for its atmosphere reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”. With all fairness to Clarke, I am curious as to whether the history and practice of English magic in the novel and its footnotes were purely from imagination or had some basis in English mythology, legends, and folktales.


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