Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

It is the year 1806 and I want you to picture the city of London back then. The era of handsome carriages and Victorian mansions, Dukes, butlers, servants, murky taverns, fashionable ballrooms, mysterious cobbled alleyways,violent thunderstorms and dark grey foreboding skies and….and…and magic (of course). Britain is currently in war with Napoleon Bonaparte and are desperate to win the war against France once and for all. But how, when there was no more magic in England and no one knew why.

The city of York Society of Modern Magicians didn’t give a fig about practical magic. They were happily satisfied being theoretical magicians. None of them had ever cast a single decent spell and were not the least bothered to try. Some years before, the society had heard rumours that there was another magician in Yorkshire who had this wonderful library full of rare magical texts and that he spent his days (and nights) studying them. But what they did not know was that he was the only practical magician of his time. Mr Gilbert Norrell to me was not just a magician, he was the greatest book hoarder that I had ever known. (I wonder what his GR shelf would have looked like :p)

Mr Norrell’s one and only dream was reviving English magic. He believed he was the greatest magician of his time and that the rest were all hypocrites. He wanted them all banned and stripped of their titles. He willingly offered his services to the British Government in their war with the French and in order to get their attention he revived a well-known politician’s dead wife, Lady Pole back to the world of the living.However, he did the one thing he swore never to do, which is to summon a fairy for help. A decision which he immediately regretted.

Upon seeing Lady Pole, the once reluctant Ministers immediately accepted Mr Norrell’s help. The results were promising and the word spread throughout the social circles of London like wildfire. Overtime, Mr Norrell’s importance had increased but sociably, Mr Norrell was a real bore. He was a selfish old man who cared nothing but for his own importance and relished under compliments and praises from others. He was not as interesting as the crowd of London hoped him to be. He was secretive and anti-social and desired nothing but to sit in his library reading and studying magic (if he was not busy helping the military in war). His biggest fault however, was that he believed that the great and powerful Raven King aka John Uskglass had no hand in the modern magic of today. He was sorely wrong.

The known prophesy however, was that there will be TWO great magicians to return magic back to England. The other magician was none other than, Jonathan Strange. He was a handsome tall magician, the exact antithesis of Mr Norrell and also the magician who hoped to summon the mysterious and powerful Raven King and er..well.. find out the rest!!!! Will they restore magic back to England or will their return worsen the fate of the country? Will their magic open the gates to the King’s Road or will they open a Pandora’s box and ultimately regret it?

What I love most about the book is the writing. In this 1000 page story, the grip isn’t always consistent. Unfortunately this book had more lows than highs but the ending was in its own, a masterpiece! The writing was always the saving grace. It was very much like a Jane Austen classic but with splashes of Wodehouse’s humour.Yes, it is actually quite funny. The 18th century British satire that packs a punch of humour in stylish and sarcastic subtlety. How Susanna made a classic in the 21st century is beyond me. Also, I loved that it is an adult fantasy with illustrations!! If there was one thing that I found slightly annoying is the footnotes, which sometimes took a huge chunk of the page and carried on to the next page!!! Grhhhh I wish she found a way too incorporate them into the story or broke it down into a series of books.

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