Friday, April 23, 2010

Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell

I’ve just finished Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.  It is 782 pages of dense, DENSE, DENSE writing and I think I am unsatisfied by the ending. My brain may explode. I kept expecting the ending to be more… romantic? Strange does all this work to free his wife, but doesn’t go to her immediately. Part of him seems to want them to be together, but another part rather be with Norrell.

[This might be an irrelevant question, but why don’t the Stranges have any children? They were married for many years, around ten, I think (though Mr. Strange spent three years in the war). What kind of birth control did they have back then? Just something I find curious.]

I liked the rest of the ending. All the important characters are dealt with. I think most get what they deserve. I felt pity appropriately and was quite happy with the outcome of some of the characters, like Childermass and Stephen Black. I do wonder what happened to Lady Pole though.

The pacing of the novel made it a bit difficult to get through. I found the beginning section that just focused on Norrell immensely slow. Once Strange was introduced however, it moved quickly. Once Strange got back from the war, I was having a difficult time again. Then, the final section, with the disappearance of Mrs. Strange, it was back to quick and exciting. I think I would have liked the story better, if it were either shorter or maintained the same quick pace throughout. I think part of what made it at times difficult is the “regency” style language it was written in, as if the author was a contemporary of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.

In the end, I mostly enjoyed the novel. Would I recommend it? Absolutely, but I think you have to be a fan of two things. The first would be Austen or Dickens (or their contemporaries), because this isn’t the language of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. The second, you have to enjoy a little fantasy. There are magic and fairies and people brought back from the dead. This isn’t Dungeons and Dragons fantasy, but the fantasy of a “lady” or “gentleman”.

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