Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Don't know if you've read this book but you should.

It's a big call to say should ... but, to put it simply, you should.

I believe it's as big and 'literature-world changing' as Lord of the Rings which, I know, is yet another big call.

This gargantuan story of two 'rival' 19th century English magicians working to return English magic is something to behold.

After having to reserve the darned thing at the library as it was always out I wondered what I had let myself in for when I saw just how big it is. Imagine a middle ages Bible - it's just massive, and a bugger to carry home when you have a jittery Jack.

The story doesn't hurtle off from the 1st page like some of the 'modern' writers*. Oh no, it just starts telling it's wee tale almost in a whisper. Like the best teachers Susanna Clark knows that quiet and calm is the best way to get attention. And it does, before you know what's happened it's passed midnight and you don't want to stop even if it is a work night.

It has all the quirks, funny moments, history and glorious characters you'd expect.

Most of all though, it has a world. It has a world you almost know as it's set in England and we all have a view of 1800's London. There's lots that you feel familiar with. But ... but ... somehow it's different. There are references to past events that somehow have slipped by you - who was the Raven King, did he really exist?

And then there's the magic. The best way to describe the magic is to compare it with Lord of the Rings (book or movie). Whilst the LoTR magic is fantastical this magic is ordinary. That's not to say that it's effect is huge to those that get in the way - whole towns are transported, roads appear from nowhere. But we don't care because it's not the reason of the story.

I love the fact that we never hear how magic was done, much like watching a great musician - you hear the music, you know instruments were used but really have no idea about the rest.

And finally, the footnotes are little (and sometimes not so little) gems in themselves.

This is one book that initially I got out of a library but I will be buying. I will buy the hardback version for keeps. I will be re-reading it many many times over my life.

So should you. Before the movie comes out.
And we're promised more to come

Magic! Do not speak to me of magic! It is just like everything else, full of setbacks and disappointments.

* 'modern' writers' - weird to say that because this is Susanna Clark's first book.


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