Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

October 26, 2010 at 20:02 (Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction, Highly Rated Books, Historical Fiction) (, , , )


Where to begin? Three pages in, it becomes readily apparent that Susanna Clarke has thundered onto the map of British fantasy literature, and hammered out an ineffable niche for herself. When one talks of Caspian or Frodo or Alice Liddell, Corum or Potter or Rincewind, the names of Norrell and Strange will henceforth follow naturally.

The story, in fact, must wait until the reader has taken time to imbibe the delicious savour of Clark’s own inimitable style. Admittedly, readers are generously granted four or five hundred pages to fully appreciate the richness and background of Clarke’s fantasy and wallow in her delightful turns of phrase and elegant prose; but if one has no patience for the bombast and verbosity of fantasy authors, then one really has no business in the genre.

Indeed, it has become rare that any writer takes time enough to create an entire functioning history and society. The attention to detailing both a regency period and an entirely original fantastical history is remarkable, and if any complaint were uttered for the book’s considerable length, surely in this it would be answered in full.

While certain rather despairing outcomes detracted somewhat from the book’s initial foppish or whimsical air, and the darkening of the tone overpowered some of the charm and warmth that is so native to English fantasy, these disappointments are to scale with the book’s monumental successes as a piece of literature, and cannot assail it upon the pedestal it richly deserves


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