Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Paperback, 695 pages

Published Oct. 31, 2006

4 stars (69 reviews)

Published in 2004, it is an alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Its premise is that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centred on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundaries between reason and unreason, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Dane, and Northern and Southern English cultural tropes/stereotypes. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. It inverts the Industrial Revolution conception of the North-South divide in England: in this book the North is romantic and magical, rather than rational and concrete.

4 editions

Review of 'Jonathan Strange ve Bay Norrell' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I was introduced to this book by the excellent BBC TV mini-series, which I have seen maybe 4 times now. I can recall many lines, which are completely unremarkable sentences, yet so memorable because of how they were delivered. The book is so much more than the series (which I really like), a lot of the story, character back stories, history and world building is in the footnotes. 5/5 stars. Should you read it or should you watch it? It is a wrong question, sir.

Review of 'Jonathan Strange ve Bay Norrell' on 'Goodreads'

1 star

Unbearable, boring, pretentious. When I have to force myself to read even a few pages from a book, it means I'm not enjoying it at all. That has been happening for the last months with this unswallowable brick.

The thing I regret the most, is having left aside so many other books I wanted to read, because I'm used to read only one book at a time.

I guess I'll just watch the TV series, just out of curiosity. I hope it's more enjoyable than this book.

Review of 'Jonathan Strange ve Bay Norrell' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Absolutely fantastic book, notable for its interesting story and characters, but also impressive for how convincing this alternate England is, cleverly combining real history with fantasy history. The author clearly did a lot of research, as the language captures a sense of the period, even though it's far less ornate than writing of that time would be.

Review of 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A dreamy, detailed, pseudo-historical story of English magic centered around the two magicians in the title. It's long at 800+ pages but doesn't seem it. The author has gone to amazing detail in the historical magical England she reinvents, right down to lengthy scholarly footnotes on every chapter. If you're a fan of fast-paced action and adventure this might not be the book for you, but if you're interested in the general setting and you enjoyed books like "The High House" (Stoddard) and don't mind a a more leisurely unwinding of the plot, you'll probably enjoy this a lot.

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