So a while ago (read: two years ago. shh. don’t judge) my brother gave me a copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I’ve slowly been working my way through the book, not because I haven’t enjoyed it, but because, well, kids. And work. Between chasing tiny humans around and reading a ton for work, I’ve tended to gravitate towards lighter reading when I have time to read for fun. And while entertaining, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell doesn’t really qualify as “light” reading.
Henceforth the reason why (yes, I know that phrase is not grammatically correct. i’m still writing it.) it’s taken me two years to get through the book. BUT I’ve finally gotten through, and I have to say, it’s a solid 9/10 on my scale.
My favorite thing about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is seriously the footnotes. I freaking LOVE the fact that Susanna Clarke (the author) built an entire academic literature around a fictional world. Yes, I know that makes me a nerd. It’s okay. I’ve accepted that fact.
But, footnotes aside, the world building is phenomenal. The character building is phenomenal. There’s some characters who only showed up for maybe a chapter, and I was actually invested in what happened to them.
The plot was intriguing and the storytelling is unique. I can honestly say I have never read a book like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
I think my least favorite thing about the book is that most of the plot happens in the second half of the book, while the first half is mostly setting the scene for everything that is to come. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the first half—it was charming and full of world building and character development, and I don’t even know that I can see how it could have been done any differently. It works as it is.
That being said, I felt a bit like a firehose was being turned on in the second half of the book, and SO MUCH PLOT started coming at me all at once.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoy alternate histories and the mixture of magic and 19th century English culture.