Readalong – Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – Volume 1 – Mr.Norrell)

Well, here we are at the end of the first week of the readalong and – to my great surprise – I find myself way ahead of schedule and well into the second book already.

It is, most definitely, love.


What do I love?

I love that though this very big book, divided into three volumes, looks so much like a take on a Victorian novel, it is set somewhat earlier, during the Napoleonic Wars. And while I have seen it suggested that the style of some wonderful authors – Austen, Trollope and Dickens are the names I have seen most often – and while I can see all of those influences, none of them dominate. The style suits the period, suits the story, and it is the style of a storyteller with a keen eye, a gentle wit, and perfect control of her material.

I love that the world of this book is so very alive, that it is a very real England, overlaid with the history and presence of magic. The detail is wonderful, and the love that the architect of that world has for it shines from the pages.

I love that such a wonderful array of characters from that world have been presented to me, and that they are so very well drawn with just a few simple strokes. It seems that each and every one has a part to play, and there is no one I won’t be glad to see come to the fore. I shall be particularly pleased to see a little more of Mr Segundus and Mr Childermas …. and that reminds me that I am very taken with the names, which are distinctive without being gimmicky, and fitting without ever feeling contrived.

I love the magic, that has been so beautifully woven into real history and that is so nicely understated. The set pieces have been wonderful, and one of the things that I love most of all is that nearly all of the magic draws on the natural world. It would have been easy to overplay the magic, but that hasn’t happened. This remains a human story set in a real world where magic just happens to have a part to play.

I love that I have some idea where the story is going, but I don’t know too much, and I am so curious to know.

Most of all I am thrilled that I have found a book that appeals to both my childish love of a magical world and my grown up love of period fiction, that it is a book that has pulled me into a world that I don’t want to leave.

And I think that is reason enough for me to stop writing and start reading again …..


Vishy, from Vishy’s Blog, and Delia, from Postcards from Asia are the hosts of this readalong.

22 responses

  1. I so love your reviews. You write with such enthusiasm and if I’m having a non motivated reading day or am tired I read your reviews and can’t wait to get into my own books and meet my own characters. Thank you for making life so pleasant!

  2. It’s great to see you enjoying the book so much.
    A mixed bag for me but I still like it, especially now that I’m well into Volume II.
    What did you think about the footnotes?

    • I’d started the book before and I think maybe that made it easier for me to move forward with the story. I like the footnotes, but I’m leaving the longer ones and going back at the end of the chapter so I don’t lose the thread of the story

  3. I’m glad you’re enjoying this book so much. I barely made it through the first volume in time to write my review, since I am having trouble getting into the story. There are so many characters where I don’t know whether I am supposed to like them or not. Let’s see what the second volume has in store…

  4. I read and loved this when it first came out – it was a really formative read for me, setting the bar really high for all historical and fantasy novels to come. What do you think of the footnotes? I know they put some people off but I love the added texture of them. I have just coincidentally started listening to the audiobook as a reread and that is great too. 🙂

    • I love the footnotes, and the wealth of detail – for me the perfect book is one with a world do fully realised that I don’t want to leave, and that I want to know what is happening outside the story – and that is definitely the case with this one.

  5. Wonderful post, Fleur! So glad to know that you are liking the book so much. I liked very much this sentence from your post – “it is the style of a storyteller with a keen eye, a gentle wit, and perfect control of her material”. I also liked the names of the characters – very interesting and unique. And Dickensian in some ways. I also liked what you said about how though there is magic, the book is still a human story. Hope you enjoy reading volume 2. Will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it next weekend. Happy reading!

  6. Pingback: Readalong – Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell by Susanna Clarke – Volume 1 (Mr.Norrell) | Vishy's Blog

  7. I’m so glad you have bonded with this book. I loved everything about it when I read it when it first came out – especially the footnotes.

  8. I tried to read this when it was first published but some how it just didn’t speak to me. However, every time I’ve come across a copy since I’ve felt impelled to pick it up and think, should I try again. Perhaps if you continue to enjoy it to such an extent I might finally have a second go.

    • Much as I’m loving this book I can understand why some don’t. Maybe try it, but if it’s not speaking to you I can’t say it’s a must read. I believe that there’s a BBC adaptation on the way, so maybe you and the bears would enjoy the story that way.

  9. I agree, I love how Clarke has woven a magical world into a real historical context. I haven’t completely fallen in love with the story yet but it has the potential to be a book I will really enjoy, I just have no idea where the story will take us either!

  10. Pingback: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell read-along, Volume I – Mr Norrell | Postcards from Asia

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