• Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

  • By: Susanna Clarke
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 32 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-23-05
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.3 (391 ratings)

Regular price: $55.97

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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.
©2004 Susanna Clarke (P)2004 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, and Bloomsbury Publishing
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Critic Reviews

"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
5 out of 5 stars
By Tim on 01-06-06

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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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By E on 09-06-05

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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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Cosima on 11-18-10

Harry Potter for Grown Ups

Beautifully written tale of magic and Faries, but not as we know it. Throw in lots of history and characters that jumped from the page. I was enchanted and surprised by this novel, I did not want it to end.
Lose yourself in this one.

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29 of 30 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Felix on 08-24-05

Pleasingly long

Just like a previous reviewer, I have resisted reading this book for a while now, though mainly due to lack of time. So when I saw that it was available on Audible, I jumped at the chance.

I truly can not fault this audiobook. The author's incredible talent for recreating the atmosphere of Georgian London is impressive, all the more as the story is woven with such loving attention to detail that even someone with some scholarly knowledge in English and Metropolitan history is soon enticed to suspend disbelief and 'enjoy the ride'.

The story itself is deeply compelling, containing all the essential elements of a good fantasy novel without any of the pitfalls and clich?s that genre is often plagued by.
Without giving too much away, the arduous re-discovery of the long lost knowledge of English magic, once the foundation of the North of England under the fabled Raven King, two feuding magicians, Faeries, madness and love that refuses to lose hope, combined with a first-class narrator who understands how to bring the individual characters to life with real passion, make this one of the most enjoyable audiobooks I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. And its length (4 parts of around 8 hours each) ensure that the pleasure lasts for some time.

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89 of 94 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By RFC on 01-02-16

Outstanding performance, great story

Simon Prebble does a great job with different accents and in creating recognisable character voices.
Often narrators struggle to give characters of similar age and background a distinct persona and voice but Mr Prebble does this beautifully.

The book itself creates an intricate world and alternative history. The writing style especially transports you back to an early 19th century Britain. It illustrates how this age was a very different world - even without the addition of magic. Susanna Clarke includes all the little pleasantries and flourishes of the era. However, sometimes I found she goes overboard with this style. There were times when I wished that people would be done with polite phrases or discussing what could be done and something, anything, would finally HAPPEN! Because of this I rated the story only 4 stars.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and audiobook and I am hoping that Susanns Clarke finds the time to write a book-length sequel of this world and its characters.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Brett on 04-26-17

Slow to start

But an amazing tale once you let it sweep you up. Excellent, rich voice acting.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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