Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke

"Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians"

The book is by first time author Susanna Clarke, a British author and the book is divided up into three sections. It follows the story of two magicians Mr. Norrell and his pupil Jonathan Strange and their search to bring magic back to England. The story takes place over several years, throught the Napoleonic Wars and across several countries including Spain and Italy.

One of my favourite parts was the use of footnotes throughout the piece. Now usually I hate footnotes because they accompany essays, the bane of my existence. But I had never considered using them for fiction and this is the first time I've seen them used in that way. Clarke uses them to expand and explain names, places, details in the course of the story. Having these explanations out of the way, keeps the story from slowing down and it's the choice of the reader whether they want to read them or not.

Also, I love Clarke's imaginative details about magic and the effects it has on England and its inhabitants. Things like making fleets of ships out of rain or strange pillars of darkness following an individual around.

I did have some issues with the book though. Part of the problem was the length. While Susanna Clarke's writing style compliments the historical period of the story, she included a lot of extraneous information and details not necessary to move the plot forward. They end up bogging down the story. This might just be the mistake of a first time author so I'll forgive her. But I will not forgive the almost complete lack of the Raven King in the novel. Yes I realize by the title that the story is about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell but all of their efforts seemed to point towards the return of the Raven King or at least discovering him in some far off Faerie Kingdom. He never really appears and there was a quick explanation at the end about what had happened to him that was not sufficient for me. I felt like I had made a connetion with this character who I believed was going to be revealed eventually and then I felt cheated.


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