Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
A Novel

74%

31 Critic Reviews

Initially framed as a faux-scholarly, dry historical novel, complete with close to 200 footnotes citing magical texts and explaining references, Jonathan Strange initially lulls readers with the drawing-room realism of a Jane Austen novel. But after establishing its version of reality, the book flowers into a sprawling, wild adventure.
-AV Club

Synopsis

The international bestseller, reissued with a striking new illustrated cover. Part of The Bloomsbury Phantastic series - three books tracing the tradition of fantasy from Edgar Allan Poe to Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke. Susanna Clarke’s novel is an epic tale of nineteenth-century England and the two magicians who emerge to change its history. In the year 1806, in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, most people believe magic to have long since disappeared from England -- until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers and becomes a celebrity overnight. Another practising magician emerges: the young and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s pupil and the two join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic and soon he risks sacrificing not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything else he holds dear.
 

About Susanna Clarke

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Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham, England, in 1959, the eldest daughter of a Methodist minister. She was educated at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and has worked in various areas of nonfiction publishing. She has published a number of short stories and novellas in American anthologies, as well as her own most recent collection of short stories entitled "The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and Other Stories."
 
Published January 1, 2004 by Bloomsbury. 865 pages
Genres: History, Humor & Entertainment, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
All: 31 | Positive: 26 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2010

Clarke sprinkles her radiantly readable text with faux-scholarly (and often hilarious) footnotes while building an elaborate plot that takes Strange through military glory, unsuccessful attempts to cure England’s mad king, travel to Venice and a meeting with Lord Byron...An instant classic, one of the finest fantasies ever written.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Gregory Maguire on Sep 05 2004

Clarke's imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty...Many charmed readers will feel, as I do, that Susanna Clarke has wasted neither her energies nor our many reading hours. There is a great deal of magic in books nowadays.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Jane Stevenson on Oct 03 2004

Clarke's superimposition of one reality on another is disturbing, because the addition of functional magic to English history from circa 1110-1600 would have changed everything...yet, somehow, everything is supposed to be exactly the same...For all its ingenuity and charm, this book is as insubstantial as fairy gold.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Michel Faber on Oct 02 2004

But overall this large, loquacious book has nothing much to say, the plot creaks frightfully in many places and the pace dawdles. New characters are constantly being added, even near the end, and most of them struggle to earn their narrative keep.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by ManoflaBook.com on Dec 21 2011

The novel surprised me. It was excellent, funny, and imaginative...The footnotes were some of my favorite parts of the book even though they add very little to the story...Full of historical references, stories, and brief characterizations, these footnotes are a delight.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Tasha Robinson on Sep 27 2004

Initially framed as a faux-scholarly, dry historical novel, complete with close to 200 footnotes citing magical texts and explaining references, Jonathan Strange initially lulls readers with the drawing-room realism of a Jane Austen novel. But after establishing its version of reality, the book flowers into a sprawling, wild adventure.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Reese on Sep 03 2004

Reading about magic should never be a chore; what, after all, is the point? Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style...Wholly original and richly imagined, ”Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” turns out to be more admirable than lovable.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Jun 07 2009

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is no Harry Potter knockoff. It's altogether original...In fact, I'm so in love with Susanna Clarke's debut novel that I must have been beaned on the head with a golden snitch...In a fantastically paced conclusion, the ominous horror of what's preying on England comes into focus...

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by Tracy on Dec 16 2009

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is long and rambling, and the tone and style change throughout the book, but it all works and melds together to form a brilliant story that drew me in...All I can say is that if you have been thinking about reading this book and putting it off, don't do what I did.

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The Seattle Times

Above average
Reviewed by Nisi Shawl on Sep 12 2004

"Strange" lives up to all the enticing promise of Clarke's earlier work...Of course, in a novel of "Strange's" scope there are other themes, other subplots, other finely drawn characters...but Clarke's most impressive show of authorial skill is in how she resolves this tension without destroying it.

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Tor

Above average
Reviewed by Ann Leckie on Feb 03 2014

I knew before Chapter Three that this was going to be a book with lots of footnotes and that Clarke was skilled enough a writer that she must have had a very good reason for including them...And that I could know from there on out that this book was going to be awesome.

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Tor

Good
Reviewed by Lev Grossman on Mar 04 2011

I understand it took Clarke 10 years to write Jonathan Strange, but it reads as if she reeled off the whole book as one glorious improvisation, lightly and freely, in the span of a week. It is, I believe, the first fantasy masterpiece of the 21st century. I await her next. Whether it takes her 10 more years, or 50, the wait will have been worth it.

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Tor

Good
Reviewed by Jo Walton on Jul 29 2010

In summary—this is terrific, it reads like something written in an alternate history in which Lud in the Mist was the significant book of twentieth century fantasy, and it goes directly at the the movement between magical and the mundane...Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is there, it’s incredible, and one can always read it again.

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About.com

Above average
Reviewed by Brian Houle on Jul 19 2015

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell takes its place along side the works of Oscar Wilde and Thomas Hardy in the tradition of mocking the eccentricities of British society...Clarke's world is one in which magician is just another profession along side doctor, lawyer or engineer.

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Blogger News Network

Good
Reviewed by E.D. Kain on Mar 19 2008

Indeed, it is my personal opinion that no other fantasy has reached quite the same literary heights as Clarke’s Jonathan Strange. It is a dark, rich tale of an England infused with a mystery and magic that is at once terrifying and beautiful...for the fantasy lover, Jonathan Strange is a life-changing book. But I think that’s a good thing.

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Biff Bam Pop!

Below average
Reviewed by sarahhmiduski on Jun 08 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a fascinating, creative book, but if I must be honest, the first word that comes to mind when I think of it is, tedious.

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Fantasy Book Review

Good
Reviewed by Amanda White on Mar 01 2012

This is a large book at over 800 pages but the richness of the tale keeps the reader enchanted until the very end. Clarke brings life to all her characters and her imagination leaps out from every page. To have kept the writing style uniform throughout is itself a triumph.

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Inverarity is not a Scottish village

Good
Reviewed by Inverarity on Jun 17 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has made it onto my list of "top fantasy recommendations," without any reservations...Any fantasy lover should enjoy it, but in particular, I think it's a great choice for the YA reader looking for something more adult without jumping into blood-and-guts fantasy...

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http://bestfantasybooks.com

Above average
on Aug 25 2012

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell novel certainly isn’t for everybody; for some the beginning will be too slow...But for those willing to take the time it will prove to be an entirely worthwhile experience. Anyone who is looking for a fresh take on the fantasy genre, a touching, character driven epic...should take a look.

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SF Book Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by Antony Jones. on May 05 2010

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a bit of a mixed bag, on the one hand it has been very well written and has an intelligent and original plot but it also seriously lacks pace...In my opinion though it's one of those novels that is good to read but one that is unlikely to be picked up for a second time...

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SF Reviews

Excellent
Reviewed by T. M. Wagner on May 03 2004

Told with a level of grace, humanity, and a real sense of the mystical that few novels attain either in or out of the fantasy genre, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a rare masterpiece. It's a book to be savored and passed on to your children and theirs.

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Booking in Heels

Below average
Reviewed by Hanna W on Feb 15 2013

It was just too long! I loved the idea of it - Victorian magicians trapped in a bitter rivalry...and it could have been wonderful. I'm sure it will make a wonderful movie one day (or three, judging by the current trend of scraping three films out of one book), but the effort required to read this in novel form just doesn't pay off.

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https://www.sfsite.com

Good
Reviewed by Donna McMahon on May 03 2006

This is definitely a book that requires you to sit back and enjoy the journey because it is long and discursive, and even has footnotes. But the journey is full of delight -- quaint period detail, sly characterizations, and charming language...It's entirely unique and a startling tour de force for a first novel.

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https://www.sfsite.com

Good
Reviewed by Margo MacDonald on May 03 2005

The truth is, I adored this book. So much so that, even now, weeks after finishing it, I still have not been able to bring myself to read another fantasy novel...I've been trying to convince my customers to buy it, trying to convince them not to be turned off by how fat Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is.

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http://www.complete-review.com

Above average
on Jul 01 2015

Everyone behaves terribly decorously...which is all well and good, but modern readers might no longer be satisfied with only seeing what largely amounts to the public face of characters...A very accomplished work, creating an interesting universe (and a well-conceived and -developed world of magic), and an enjoyable read.

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A Striped Armchair

Good
Reviewed by Eva on Nov 23 2011

If you haven’t read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and aren’t sure if it’s for you, I urge you to try the first few pages...t’s the kind of book that even a small taste gives you a good idea of the entire thing, so if you find yourself grinning uncontrollably at the opening chapter, do yourself a favour and get your hands on a copy!

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We Be Reading

Above average
Reviewed by Kristen M. on May 21 2015

...though it admittedly took me a couple of weeks to get through it, I enjoyed it again just as much as I remembered having done the first time.

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Pulp Fiction Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Ron Fortier on May 24 2013

Suffice it to say “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a grand fantasy adventure that will demand a reader’s willingness to sacrifice hour upon hour of his or her time but the rewards will be proportional as it is a fantastically brilliant novel that is so well imagined that by its conclusion, I was sincerely sad to see it come to a close.

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https://theguildedearlobe.wordpress.com

Good
on Jul 18 2015

I was hesitant to start this novel for many reasons, yet I am glad I took the leap. At times the listening to this audiobook felt like I was sitting in a warm comfortable room, sipping some cocoa while a slightly eccentric but engaging old man tells me of times long ago full of just enough embellishments and asides that the tale feels almost real.

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Crooked Timber.

Excellent
Reviewed by HENRY on Sep 12 2004

I’ve just finished Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and can’t recommend it highly enough...Clarke’s writing is a delight. Her prose has the rhythms of nineteenth century language, but there’s no fustiness; it’s lively and compelling.

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Looseleaf Leaflets

Above average
Reviewed by Kristy G. Stewart on Sep 14 2011

Overall, the plotting was not my favorite (probably a symptom of the nine-month read). I think it could have done with more focus and some quicker pacing. Even so, the novel definitely has texture. The worldbuilding is deep and full, complete with folktales (which of course made me happy).

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Reader Rating for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
73%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 1686 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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