Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
By Susanna Clarke
Bloomsbury, 2004. 782 pgs. Fantasy
Practicing English magicians have all but disappeared as the nineteenth century begins to unfold. Taking their place is an aristocratic breed of theoretical magicians who dedicate their lives to studying magic, but when never dream of sullying their family names by actually participating in a spell. But one lone magician, Mr. Norrell, has decided to serve his country by bringing magic back to England. He is soon joined by Jonathan Strange, a young man who seems to have a natural magical gift. Together, these two magicians set events in motion that could spell doom to the entire British Empire.
This is a hefty work of fantasy. At almost 800 pages, ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell’ takes some courage to begin and a little stamina to get into. Filled with footnotes and details beyond what most readers are used to, readers may at times feel they are reading a history text. But if you stick with it, you will be rewarded with an epic work transporting readers to a magical world deepened by the author’s description of a brilliant, magical version of England steeped in folklore and legend.