Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke | Rating: ★★★★★
“Time and I have quarrelled. All hours are midnight now. I had a clock
and a watch, but I destroyed them both. I could not bear the way they
The first thing every reader should know is that this book will certainly not be for everyone. Susanna Clarke pens a tale of magicians that is worthy of a classic in its unique and elegant tone. But it is also a flaw for many readers, as it may drag on or be intimidating for them to stick to/pick up. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one of my all time favourite novels but even I can see the flaws in it and understand how tedious its tone and length may be. It's surely a commitment--but it's a completely magical one.
While many will find the prose to be deeply satisfying and, perhaps, get lost in the depths of its pages. I fit in that category. Something about Clarke's writing feels like an old friend sitting beside you in front of a fireplace. You know? I never tire of the way the story is told and I like unwinding with it slowly and delicately because it makes the experience all the more fun. I think that it's definitely one of those books where, every time you read it, you pick up on one thing you hadn't before. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell captivated me from the very start and felt like it was of a different time.
My mind often wanders during books and it is never anything that I can control. Whether a book is long or short; fantasy or contemporary, classic or modern, it's entirely plausible that my mind will wander from it. I'm a quick reader who is merely fast without skimming. My mind, however, never wandered whilst reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and instead of speeding up my process, I had this undying urge to consume it until its final pages. Indeed, it consumed me by its climax and there's something warm in this fact. You know you have found a good novel when it consumes you but doesn't leave you cold upon finishing it.
Beyond its excellent prose and the way the story unfolds, there's a lot to be seen and loved within this magical world. I loved the characters--even in their offbeat moments, even the ones who were a bit of a villain--and seeing them changing with time was fantastic. The length is such a good thing because so much time passes us by in the story and it's kind of like growing up side by side with them, all though a majority of the characters are already grown.
Another thing I appreciated greatly was the way the narration is spilled. It's not unlike a story being told to us--you'll feel like some moments are bouncing off the pages and playing out before you. And other times, you will feel as if your grandparent has tucked you in bed and began to read to you a story. More than this, it never treats you like a fool; Susanna Clarke has nifty little guides/notes on certain pages to flesh out the world for you.
Which is great.
Because if one thing could have gone wrong in this story, it would have been a distinct lack of world building. Clarke is a pro and a god-damned genius for how she tells this story and engages her many readers. You really feel included in this world and that's one of the greatest feelings in the world when it comes to literature. She's definitely in a league of her own when it comes to her deliriously good and magical descriptions--you cannot go a single moment without its song-like prose leading you into a vivid scene of what the fantasy is all about.
Reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell really is a complete and utter joy. I have never read such a large book without feeling like it was a chore. There's just something undeniably special about it and it's easy to see why it's become so highly praised; it's a modern day classic that generations will be talking about long after we've passed on. I cannot wait to dive back into the magicians world and be blown away all over again--this is one of my favourites of all time. Period.