Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

It was a delight to come back to this after so many years. It remains a favorite of mine and when my husband and I started a long trip this mammoth leaped out of the library's audio section. We only got a third of the way through it on the trip, but we stayed with it - finishing in about a month. Simon Prebble's reading was very good and helped carry the book - my one criticism is that the female voices are same-y. This could be Prebble's limitation, or it could be Clarke's fault for failing to have a wide range of female characters. 

 

Clarke's writing captures the essence of the social comedy of Austen and her Victorian successors and delivers a beautifully conceived world of magic in Regency England. The plot revolves around the first two practical magicians England has seen in almost three centuries, a magical resurrection with horrible consequences for the lady involved, and the progress of a black butler as he navigates a complicated and abusive relationship with England and a Fairy. It's about so much more than that, of course. Clarke heavily foot-noted the book with citations to magical books, legends, historic accounts and definitions that make the world all the more real. The addition of atmospheric illustrations that are fresh and yet evoke era are a real bonus. I had to bring down my print edition so my husband didn't miss out.

 

It has been 15 years since publication, but I am willing to wait another 15 years if that's what it takes to read more about this world. I hope Ms. Clarke will do it! I must note, too, that the physical edition of Clarke's book of short stories 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories' is out of print.