When Neil Gaiman writes that a novel is “unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last 70 years”, you know you’re in for a treat. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a novel which could easily have been written by one of the powerhouse authors of centuries past, with writing reminiscent of Dickens or Austen. The meticulous historical landscape coupled with thrilling magical feats will keep you enthralled long past your bedtime.
To me, the sign of a good author is one which makes you forget you are reading a book at all, instead you are transported to that time and place, and are watching the events unfurl before your eyes. This is something I first noticed when reading the Harry Potter books, Susanna Clarke has this in spades. It’s been nearly a year since I read this book, and there are still certain breathtaking scenes that I can picture clear as day. But I’m not going to write about them here, because discovering them for yourself is half the fun!
This book follows the relationship between two magicians in 19th Century London, in a world which believes it has not known the touch of magic for several hundred years. Beginning as master and pupil, Norrell and Strange soon join forces as equals to combat Napoleon’s advancing armies. However, Strange soon becomes stifled by Norrell’s methodical and cautious approach to magic, and begins experimenting with wilder and less predictable forms. Inevitably the two become fearsome rivals, but with an underlying respect which constantly draws them back into each others lives, for the sake of magic and England.
Suffice to say, this is one reader who can’t wait to watch the BBC miniseries starting on August 6!