Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

  • by Susanna Clarke
  • Narrated by Simon Prebble
  • 32 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr. Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative, the very opposite of Mr. Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr. Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr. Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that 32 hours leave readers longing for more.


What the Critics Say

"A smashing success....An exceptionally compelling, brilliantly creative, and historically fine-tuned piece of work." (Booklist)
"Extraordinary....Immersion in the mesmerizing story reveals its intimacy, humor, and insight, and will enchant readers of fantasy and literary fiction alike." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ravishing...superb...combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien." (Time)
"Clarke welcomes herself into an exalted company of British writers - not only, some might argue, Dickens and Austen, but also the fantasy legends Kenneth Grahame and George MacDonald - as well as contemporary writers like Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman." (The New York Times Book Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

An awesome masterpiece

The only problem with this book is that it was much too short, even at 32 hours. It is an awesome achievement on the part of both author and narrator. I don't think I have ever experienced such a credible alternate world, full of totally believable characters involved in such a fascinating and gripping and wonderfully-woven story. This is compounded by Susanna Clarke's outstanding writing -- the quality of her English puts many other modern authors to shame.

There are few other works of modern literature you could compare it to -- Neil Gaiman's American Gods, perhaps, which it certainly equals and possibly exceeds, and Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast saga. Comparisons with Harry Potter are unfair, however -- Susanna Clarke is as far in advance of J.K. Rowling as Dickens and Balzac are of Enid Blyton.

This first novel immediately puts Clarke in the same literary level as Dickens, Austen, the Bronte sisters and others. She is at least their equals and has other qualities, qualities of world-creation and vision, that they did not have.

Simon Prebble's narration is worthy of Clarke's wonderful book. Every character is perfectly deliniated, coming to life with the first couple of words they speak. It was a joy to listen to and contributed to the feeling that the book was much too short. I would have loved to have gone on living in this fascinating world.

Five stars is not enough for this book. I wish I could have awarded eight or ten. An instant masterpiece, a classic, a jewel.
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- Tim

For the love of language

This is a book for people who like to dwell in language. It is descriptive and the choice of language and phrasing matches perfectly the period of the setting: the early 1800s. It reflects, too, the types and class of people who it describes. The story is compelling, gently unfolding, drawing the listener into the world, both through the description of events, and the weaving in of magical "theoretical" texts which anchor the story into its bigger mythology of lost English magical traditions.

This is a long audio book and not suited to people who want to be swept along by a fast-paced narrative. If you are the kind of person who claimed that Tolkien's Lord of The Rings was too long or tedious, then you should avoid this book. For those who like deeply formed characters and a narrative that builds momentum steadily then this is a wonderful choice (& extremely well performed in this audio version).
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- E

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-10-2005
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc