Friday, July 6, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #35 Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I may love this book. No really, I may be in deep, deep love with this book.

And, look at all the reasons why:

1] The Language
From the very first paragraph I could tell that this book was a wonderful labor of love

“Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians. They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers upon the history of English magic.” 

“He understood for the first time that the world is not dumb at all, but merely waiting for someone to speak to it in a language it understands.” 

“There was very little about her face and figure that was in any way remarkable, but it was the sort of face which, when animated by conversation or laughter, is completely transformed. She had a lovely disposition, a quick mind and a fondness for the comical. She was always very ready to smile and, since a smile is the most becoming ornament that any lady can wear, she had been known upon occasion to outshine women who were acknowledged beauties in three countries.” 

and, my favorite

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never would.” 

2] The Plot
There's the first book of's been eaten by a drunk man who is later hanged for his crime. There's Mr. Norrell who is such an insecure nit-wit that he goes around buying up all the books of magic and there's his apprentice a dashing man whose only true greatness is that he is truly an amazing magician. There's a war with France, marriages, secrets and lust for power. At a great cost, there is a woman who has been brought back from the dead. Add to that a faerie who loves all things shiny and collects them to his castle. There's a prophecy that these men are bound to perform as they are responsible for bringing magic back to England. And, I love the footnotes as they talk about the world in which this book exist and enhance my pleasure.

3] The Themes
Norrell and Strange have a binding relationship. They complete each other.
True Love
Strange's sacrifice for Arabella is truly the best part of the book.
Social Relationships
Stephen Black, Lady Pole, Arabella and the Mad King George are all marginalized characters who play big roles in the book. They are characters who could have changed the course of the novel had they not been marginalized.
The Roles of Men and Women
If only Strange had made attention to Arabella, if only Norrell would have thought of Lady Pole's feelings...if only, if only...

4] Jonathan Strange
Yes, he needs a whole section. At first, he seems like a little bit of a prissy no job loafer, but he becomes the heart of the book. He risk everything to make sure that his wife is safe. He is a gentleman who takes pride in what he can do. 

I am a Strangeite all the way and appreciate that magic is the first of his many professions that he did well, for a long period of time and honestly. I love that he says that a magician could use magic to kill a person, but a gentleman would never do so. I also like that Strange has a fondness for Norrell, even though he knows how Norrell is towards him and others. I think that it is this aspect of his personality that helps him to understand King George and his madness. Strange is truly a compassionate person who understands and strives to understand those around not only better his magic and himself, but so that others can be better of, as well.

I do not like how Strange treats women, especially Arabella. When he's so progressive in his action and thoughts concerning magic (doesn't mind if women learn magic etc.), he still treats his wife like property, listens to her only when it suits him and most of the time after the fact his not listening has gotten him into trouble, and believes his wife's greatest pleasure is to be entertained. Gah, Strange, gah!

He is such a complex character.

5] The Otherworld characters
The Gentleman with the Thistledown hair (we all know that we can't know a faerie's real name) maybe #1 on my list of characters I love to hate and not because he's annoying, but because he is sincere and misguided. He really wants Stephen Black to be a king and he thinks that Lady Pole and Arabella are better off with him. He is the best faerie.

Vinculus is also pretty awesome and his BIG role in this book is so subtle it is just pure genius.

6] The Setting
Regency England...I didn't even know I loved this time period in England...I do love that Mad King George.

If I could possibly find a flaw with this book it would have to be with the fact that in reading about this book I saw that it was being compared to the writings of Dickens and's neither really as it is something beautiful and marvelous and all its own. I hear there's supposed to be a delicious!


  1. This is probably my all time favourite book so I was so happy to see this review. You loved everything about it that I did!

    You must read The Ladies of Grace Adieu & Other Stories next, it's a collection of short stories set in the same world.

    1. I must get those! Someone else was talking about this book on Goodreads. I can't wait to read your review of it!



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