Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark
Read from September 10, 2009 – September 22, 2009
Premise: Early 19th century England is full of Magicians who simply read theory. Mr. Norrell, stuffy, fussy, and pompous, has the largest and best library in the country but won’t let anybody see it. He also claims that he can perform magic. Turns out he can. Turns out he hates the world except one Jonathan Strange who, by randomly being harassed by a man who tells him his prophecy, has been convinced that he too can do magic. And does it. And seeks out Mr. Norrell. And eventually goes off and fights with Wellington and all sorts of marvelous period goodness.
This book was stunning. It’s huge, it’s full of awesome footnotes that fill in the world even further, and it has characterization down to this perfect balance of insanity and curmudgeonliness. I adored it. I’m not sure how to describe it except if you love the works of the Romantics, if you love Victorian “paranormal” novels (think Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights), and if you love Harry Potter, you should read this. It’s such a marvelous mash-up of all of those things—even, at one point, with a Byron cameo. Oh god. I laughed so much while reading this. It kept me tense, amused, and turning pages at lightning speed. And the ending—suffice it to say, Ms. Clark could have screwed it up in so many different ways. But she didn’t. It’s perfect.
The best storyline involves characters you don’t even hear about in the cover descriptions. I have six words for you—and the six words make this novel absolutely brilliant: “the gentleman with the thistle-down hair.”
(My apologies, I wrote the review more than two months after I finished the book. I wasn’t sure if I should do them, but I decided I should so I remembered wtf happened. Look for the others to come.)