Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

It has been quite a while since I reviewed or mentioned a book on this blog, but over winter break I finished reading the marvelously imaginative Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It is a fiction/fantasy book set in 19th century England. It has some of the feel of a Jane Austin book, except things actually happen. The story follows a pair of English magicians (Susanna Clarke uses the word "magician" where I might say "wizard"), who are determined to bring magic back to England. As they do so, their surroundings morph into a Midsummer Night's Dream kind of fantasy land, with fairies mixing with kings. The landscape which develops is very dark, but is interrupted by the constant gaity of Jonathan Strange and the aloofness/awkwardness of Mr. Norrell.

My historian/anglophile fiancee really appreciated the inclusion of actual historical figures like Lord Byron, Napoleon, and the Duke of Wellington. The caricatured portrayals of these men serve to entertain as well as give the story a bit of historical depth. It allows one to imagine that the events actually happened, which is Ms. Clarke's particular brand of magic.


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