Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, 5/5
I knew that I was going to love this intimidatingly large novel as soon as I read the caption for the opening illustration (of a sour old man reading a book): “He hardly ever spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson and no one could bear to listen to him.” Clarke somehow overcomes a contradiction in terms to tell a plausibly fantastic tale about the revival of “practical” magic in England. The story flows well and is never boring, though it does wear thin near the end, perhaps because the author has a talent for humorous and clever descriptions but her observational style is not conducive to much psychological depth or character development. However, I found it to be a charming read and quite possibly the best debut novel I’ve ever encountered.
[Why I read it: I saw a couple cool GIFs from the BBC miniseries version, but happily decided that I should give the book a chance first.]