Thursday, 13 October 2016

Jonatha Strange & Mr Norrel by Susanna Clarke

Mass Market Paperback: 1024 pages
Éditeur: Tor Books; Reprint édition (1 août 2006)

The back cover promised that this book was THE fantasy book to read. A classic. And as the story seemed really cool... I read it.

My first impression was very positive. Clarke has been very successful in creating her universe, her world, her habits, her country and people. You can imagines them, you feel like you know that world, that it's familiar very quickly. 

I liked the notes which told other stories in the story. We learned the legends of this world, their History. This helps to better understand the actions and reactions of the characters and in addition, these stories were often cool. 

Some enthusiastic readers compared Clarke to Dickens and I can see why with some aspects. Her writing has indeed a likeness, it's as delightfully old-fashioned and relations are similarly described. This is what makes the strength of this book. 

Clarke tells well and details are never boring. 

Still, some things are annoying: 

- Strange and Norrell are described as highly intelligent, but at no point do they realize what is happening. They are misled by a fairy, while faires are described as fools... 

- Strange can do things he does not do during the war, we do not know why. Clarke says it's on purpose, OK, but it makes the book a little less credible in my view. 

- The book is very very loooong... There are many descriptions. Sure, it's nice to discover this new world but the atmosphere was there quickly, thanks to Clarke great writing so she did not need to say that much.

- I had to leave the book aside (which I did without pausing) and I had a hard time coming back to it. I was eager to finish and I ignored the latest descriptions because I was too bored. 

- I could not appreciate Norrell. In fact, I did not at all... which is a shame, as it is one of the main characters! And honestly, reading over 1000 pages about a character that you can't stand says a lot about my devotion to like this book! It was not easy and it took Clarke's storytelling talent to get there!

What the story?

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England-until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

In a nutshell

A book that takes you by the hand and walk you in a fantasy world very realistic. A bit too long for my taste and a character as unsympathetic as possible. It is a 3/5 for me.

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