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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

I loved this book - it is set in England in the early 1800's in an alternative history, where the Age of Reason is replaced by magic - so Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange are required to defeat Napoleon by means of spells (making ships from rain water and turning the earth itself into a weapon). The images are wonderful (all the statues in York Minster are awoken on a dark winter evening and talk to one another from their alcoves), but the characters linger most of all - the suspicious and grumpy Mr Norrell and his younger, more talented student, Jonathan. Both men loose much more to their magic than they gain, though they rise in society with each spell they cast. It is a fantastic and dangerous world and I was gripped from the first page, though most of my recommendations have been met with incomprehension. Such a shame - please try it!

Suggested by Sally Matthews, Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire

Tagged with: challenging exciting original



I liked so many things about this book. The characterisations (both of the main characters and secondary characters), the use of language and style to put you in the period, the foot-notes (that almost give the impression that you are reading narrative non-fiction) which add to the depth of the detail and creativity. I'm not normally a fan of alternative history but the way that magic is slotted into the early 19th century so seamlessly made me a huge fan of this book. It is a challenging read but well worth the effort and I was sorry when it was over but delighted that I'd discovered it.
I really liked this book as well although the rest of the reading group didn't, yes it is challenging but also original & captivating
Anne Wise

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