enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

I read this book about 1-Oct-2007. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2004. This note was last modified Tuesday, 30-Oct-2007 20:46:45 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


I'm reading this very slowly; partly because I couldn't really read it on the plane to and from California, and also becuase I've been spending a lot of time on other tasks for a bit here.

Mostly I'm not that impressed, so far. It's quite well written, but the archaic spellings seem like an affectation, and the multi-page footnotes (frequently) are amusing in principle, but not so much in practice (they're mostly world background info, not devoid of interest).

But really, the problem is the characters. Nobody is very nice, or at all sane or sensible. This is a period when business is building up (lots of important engineering is happening), and science is well started and progressing well, but nobody takes the slightest interest in magic, even though it clearly works. Not only does it work, it doesn't seem to have power limits—entire cities are relocated effortlessly over miles, roads are constructed for tens of miles. And nobody but Jonathan Strange seems to be other than a sociaopath, and he's about half crazy at the moment.

At this point I'm less than 300 pages from the end (i.e. over 2/3 through), so I imagine I'll finish it. There are certainly unresolved issues about fairies, in particular. I suppose it could all snap together suddenly, but I don't think it's that's sort of a book.

I did it! I made it all the way through! Every word!

The ending is in some ways more reasonable that I was expecting; Strange and Norrell reconcile, and apparently will devote the next stage of their lives to serious research in magic. Lady Pole and Strange's wife are freed, but Strange and his wife are separated, somewhat against their wills. She says she'll wait for him, which doesn't sound good because I don't know how much he'll remember her, and if he continues his interest in insanity....

What's not reasonable is the stuff that wasn't from the beginning: what is magic? What are its limits, powers, costs, principles? Why are all the people so stupid? Why isn't the burgeoning scientific revolution interested in magic?

In the end, I judge this not a good use of my time.

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David Dyer-Bennet