Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“They were gentleman-magicians, which is to say that they had never harmed any one by magic – nor ever done any one the slightest good. In fact, to own the truth, not one of these magicians had ever cast the smallest spell, nor by magic caused one leaf to tremble upon a tree, made one mote of dust to alter its course or changed a single hair upon any one’s head. But, with this one minor reservation, they enjoyed a reputation as some of the wisest and most magical gentlemen in Yorkshire.” (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke)

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Cover by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the ‘keystone’ work for this past year’s blog – it is the culmination of everything I look for in a book and my taste in all other books points towards this one. I mean to say that if you like Strange & Norrell, I think you will like the whimsicality of the children’s books, the emotional distance of the ‘classics’, and the tasty details of the nonfiction that I also prize. Strange & Norrell has all of these sought-after characteristics brought together into one fantastic and original piece of writing. With Strange & Norrell I feel that I finally have a book to hold out and say: this is my taste in books; it has everything I want. Therefore, if you’ve read it and somehow think that its only OK or not dramatic enough for you, it would probably be best to quietly click on a link and follow another book blog.

What most tickles my fancy about Strange and Norrell is Susanna Clarke’s unbelievably creative use of magic. Even though I’ll be the last to say that fantasy as a genre is dull or washed out, sometimes the repetitive use of magic to transport one’s self or move water (but never to bring someone back to life) does get a bit tiresome. I don’t want to give away some of the more delightful parts, but I’ll bet that you haven’t ever read of magic being used to distill madness before, or of rain being harnessed into the shape of three-deck ships? I thought not.

Beverage: I discovered a trick for brewing tea the other day that I have never read before in any tea book. I found that if you do not stir the leaves before pouring out the tea, it never takes on that pleasantly bitter taste that so many tea drinkers require. If, however, you stir the tea leaves, the flavor will come out so much stronger. With this book, a black tea well stirred should do the trick.

Reminds me of… all the other books I have loved. I truly do think that if you like Strange & Norrell, you will find ample sources of further entertainment from most of the books favorably reviewed in this blog.


6 thoughts on “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

  1. The clever use of magic is what I liked best about this book (in addition to the gorgeous writing you could just get lost in)–particularly the passages in which Strange creates a tincture of madness. Frightening and brilliant.

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