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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me…”

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
By Susanna Clarke

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Welcome to a world of wonderful imagination – magic in all it’s forms and fascinating storytelling…
Crumbs – where to begin? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is an amazing book. An all consuming read that will enlighten you in many things, entertain you with it’s trickery and generally please readers looking for a meaty novel to eat up their hours.

Clarke’s novel employs some fun olde English spelling which adds a distinct feel to the measured pace and quality anecdotes. The extensive use of footnotes is a wonder to behold, and one that I will be ripping off completely in Darkmatters – it really is a great way to add asides and additional details without breaking up narrative passages.

Highly recommend this to all whole enjoy fantasy – here’s the official blurb from jonathanStrange.com which for once is spot on and accurate:
“Centuries ago, when magic still existed in England, the greatest magician of them all was the Raven King. A human child brought up by fairies, the Raven King blended fairy wisdom and human reason to create English magic. Now, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, he is barely more than a legend, and England, with its mad King and its dashing poets, no longer believes in practical magic.
Then the reclusive Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey appears and causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. News spreads of the return of magic to England and, persuaded that he must help the government in the war against Napoleon, Mr Norrell goes to London. There he meets a brilliant young magician and takes him as a pupil. Jonathan Strange is charming, rich and arrogant. Together, they dazzle the country with their feats.
But the partnership soon turns to rivalry. Mr Norrell has never conquered his lifelong habits of secrecy, while Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous magic. He becomes fascinated by the shadowy figure of the Raven King, and his heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens, not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.
Elegant, witty and utterly compelling, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell creates a past world of great mystery and beauty that will hold the reader in thrall until the last page.”

Darkmatters rating system (out of 5):

Action ööö – Enough to keep you entertained
Laughs ööö – Wry humour throughout
Horror ööö – Nicely macabre in places
Babes ö – Not that sort of book really but some cool romance

Overall öööö1/2 (gorgeous and highly recommended!)

Magic to the big screen!?
Apparently New Line Cinema has hired Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) to adapt the bestselling British fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for the big screen. Based on author Susanna Clarke's critically acclaimed debut novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell tells the story of two feuding magicians who attempt to restore English magic in the age of Napoleon and combines the dark mythological fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien with the social comedy of Jane Austen. “Christopher's immense wit and intelligence make him ideally suited to adapt this brilliant, rich novel,” said New Line's Executive VP Production Mark Ordesky, who is overseeing the project.

Here’s a taster of from Chapter 8 of the book:

SOMEONE WAS STANDING in the middle of the
room: a tall, handsome person with pale,
perfect skin and an immense amount of hair,
as pale and shining as thistle-down.His cold,
blue eyes glittered and he had long dark eye-brows,
which terminated in an upward flourish. He was dressed
exactly like any other gentleman, except that his coat was
of the brightest green imaginable – the colour of leaves in
early summer.
“O Lar!” began Mr Norrell in a quavering voice. “O
Lar! Magnum opus est mihi tuo auxilio. Haec virgo
mortua est et familia eius eam vitae instauratam vult.”
Mr Norrell pointed to the figure on the bed.
At the sight of Miss Wintertowne the gentleman
with the thistle-down hair suddenly became very excited.
He spread wide his hands in a gesture of surprized
delight and began to speak Latin very rapidly. Mr
Norrell, who was more accustomed to seeing Latin
written down or printed in books, found that he could
not follow the language when it was spoken so fast,
though he did recognise a few words here and there,
words such as “formosa” and “venusta” which are
descriptive of feminine beauty.
Mr Norrell waited until the gentleman’s rapture had
subsided and then he directed the gentleman’s attention
to the mirror above the mantelpiece. A vision appeared of
Miss Wintertowne walking along a narrow rocky path,
through a mountainous and gloomy landscape. “Ecce
mortua inter terram et caelum!” declared Mr Norrell.
“Scito igitur, O Lar, me ad hanc magnam operam te
vocare voluisse quia...”
“Yes, yes!” cried the gentleman suddenly breaking
into English. “You elected to summon me because my
genius for magic exceeds that of all the rest of my race.
Because I have been the servant and confidential friend
of Thomas Godbless, Ralph Stokesey, Martin Pale and of
the Raven King. Because I am valorous, chivalrous,
generous and as handsome as the day is long! That is all
quite understood! It would have been madness to
summon anyone else! We both know who I am. The
question is: who in the world are you?”
“I?” said Mr Norrell, startled. “I am the greatest
magician of the Age!”
The gentleman raised one perfect eye-brow as if to
say he was surprized to hear it. He walked around Mr
Norrell slowly, considering him from every angle. Then,
most disconcerting of all, he plucked Mr Norrell’s wig
from his head and looked underneath, as if Mr Norrell
were a cooking pot on the fire and he wished to know
what was for dinner.
“I ... I am the man who is destined to restore magic
to England!” stammered Mr Norrell, grabbing back his
wig and replacing it, slightly askew, upon his head.
“Well, obviously you are that!” said
the gentleman.

"Clarke comtemplates how to follow up such a great first novel"

Darkmatters: H O M E


Carl V. Anderson said...

I really need to pick this up and finish it. I got about 100 pages in or so when it first came out, was loving it, and then for some reason put it down and haven't gotten back to it. Very impressive writing, even more so considering it is a first novel.

Anonymous said...

jonathan strange.. i love that book :)..

Anonymous said...

i loved the way that she adapted magical history and the way it could have influenced the wars with the french. it really makes you wonder if all of these books that she sites are for real somewhere. i would love to find, for example, "a child's history of the raven king". can anyone tell me is theses things have any root in reality?