Book Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

December 22, 2011


Yes, I’ve read a magic book. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is a fictional book about magicians set in 1800s England.

  • 800 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582346038

My rat­ing for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell5

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I usually don’t read books about magic, but when Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, recommended Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which was on sale for the day, I grabbed it up immediately.

The novel surprised me. It was excellent, funny and imaginative yet not crossing into the land of unpronounceable names, fantastic creatures and geography so convoluted my simple mind cannot process it.

As in any interesting book, this one also has layers which allow the reader to think about and explore. Jealousy, friendship, envy, love, arrogance and, of course, redemption are all touched upon by this most interesting book.

The way Ms. Clarke has recreated England was, to me, one of the highlights of the book. In a style reminiscent of Mr. Gaiman she describes, with wit and clarity, seedy parlors, streets, buildings and houses both of rich and poor. The characterization of people within the story is brilliant, often funny and able to create an image.

“The walls of the parlour were ornamented with cheap engravings – portraits of famous criminals of the last century who had all been hanged and portraits of the King’s dissolute sons who had not been hanged yet.”

[N]ot been hanged yet” – don’t you love that?

The story is told by an anonymous narrator who is writing a history book about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, complete with footnotes and annotations. The footnotes were some of my favorite parts of the book even though they add very little to the story, however they bring the book to a whole new level and add several dimensions to it. Full of historical references, stories and brief characterizations these footnotes are a delight.

Books in a similar vein:
The Gates by John Connolly
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen
Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest by Amos Oz

So tell me, have you read any good books about magic?


English magicians, once world renowned, are stagnant in the 1800s and have lost their ability to perform magic. However, the reclusive Mr. Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire has been collecting old and forgotten English magic books.

Raising a woman from the dead, Mr. Norrell soon finds himself at the service of the government fighting the French. Everything turns on its head when the handsome and charming Jonathan Strange, a rival magician, appears. Strange makes a name for himself during a campaign with Lord Wellington. However it is soon obvious that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell’s idea of what exactly “magic” is or ought to be are very different.

Buy & Save on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
through the
ManOfLa­Book affil­i­ate account on:
Ama­zon* | Kin­dle* | Book Depos­i­tory US | Book Depos­i­tory UK

More books by Susanna Clarke*

Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I bought this book.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books
Article first published asBook Review:Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrellby Susanna Clarkeon Blogcritics.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke


  • bookmagicDecember 22, 2011 at 11:17 am

    You’ve sold me on this. I know of this book but never knew what it was about. But I think I would love this one. Thanks for the review!

  • BrooksDecember 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I read this book about five years ago and I *loved* it. It’s probably in my all-time top 25 (if such a list existed… hmmm… that’s a good idea!)

    I’m really glad you liked it. The footnotes where my favorite part too!

  • Sam (Tiny Library)December 23, 2011 at 6:33 am

    I’ve read this book a few times since it first came out and like you, I love the way she describes England. The short story collection that goes with it, ‘The Ladies of Grace Adieu’, is worth a read as well.

  • Alex BaughDecember 23, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Gee, what’s wrong with me? I tried reading this and just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I had better try again. Thanks for reminding me of it.

  • Bookish HobbitDecember 24, 2011 at 12:54 am

    I was so tempted to buy this book a couple of weeks ago. I may have to reconsider it thanks to your review!

  • AnnieMarch 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my blog a while back! I had never heard of this book, but it looks right up my alley and your review sold me on it.

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