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Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

You could make a few complaints about Susanna Clark's 800-page Napoleonic era fantasy. It's excessively British. It's damn long. It's a first novel. Bloomsbury is giving it a huge marketing push. However, these complaints don't really among to much, and if you whine about them I am liable to ask you to step outside.

The fact is, it's a wonderful read and posits a world that is Jane Austen with magic, or perhaps Bernard Cornwell with faeries. It has a wonderfully dry and snarky sense of humor, and yet it has several moments creepy enough to make me set the book down and shiver. The use of footnotes is much better than in, say, Jasper Fforde, who beat the device of footnoting fiction to death by "Well of Lost Plots".

The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't want it to end, and I deliberately slowed down my reading as I got toward the final pages. And yet when I reached the end I was satisfied. I may even read the book again in a couple of years, and I can count the number of books I've re-read in my lifetime on two hands.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell: ★★★★★


Oct. 26th, 2004 12:49 pm (UTC)
You hardly ever re-read books, eh? Less than 10 in your lifetime--that's pretty wild.

That's quite different from my (admittedly voracious) reading habits. I pick up old favourites fairly often, either to see whether my perspective has changed over time, or simply because my mood demands--usually as a comfortable escape--that a certain story be experienced again. And there are some very few books that simply have a special status in my own personal canon such that I make sure to re-read them about once a year. William Gibson's Virtual Light is one of those, as is Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

But I quite like the sounds of this book, so I'll make sure to pick it up.

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