Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell


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In the Hugo-award winning, epic New York Times Bestseller and basis for the BBC miniseries, two men change England's history when they bring magic back into the world.

In the midst of the Napoleonic Wars in 1806, most people believe magic to have long since disappeared from England - until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his powers and becomes an overnight celebrity.

Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician, the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome, and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. 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.

Susanna Clarke's brilliant first novel is an utterly compelling epic tale of nineteenth-century England and the two magicians who, first as teacher and pupil and then as rivals, emerge to change its history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582346038
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 08/30/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 864
Sales rank: 103,609
Product dimensions: 5.49(w) x 8.08(h) x 2.33(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Susanna Clarke was born in Nottingham, England, in 1959, the eldest daughter of a Methodist minister. She was educated at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and has worked in various areas of nonfiction publishing. She has published a number of short stories and novellas in American anthologies, including "Mr Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower," which was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award in 2001. Susanna lives in Cambridge with her partner, the novelist and reviewer Colin Greenland.


Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England

Date of Birth:

November 16, 1959

Place of Birth:

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England


B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, 1981

Read an Excerpt

(takes place in Venice, after Strange and Norrell have parted ways. Drawlight, a servant of Mr Norrell’s has come with foul intentions, either to abduct or murder Strange. But Strange, obsessed with the Raven King, has other plans…)


            “I will show you,” said Strange, “and then you will understand. If you perform these three tasks, I shall take no revenge on you. I shall not harm you. Deliver these three messages and you may return to your night-hunts, to your devouring of men and women.”

            “Thank you! Thank you!” breathed Drawlight, gratefully, until a horrible realisation gripped him. “Three! But, sir, you only gave me two!”

            “Three messages,” said Strange, wearily. “You must deliver three messages.”

            “Yes, but you have not told me what the third is!”

            Strange made no reply. He turned away, muttering to himself.

            In spite of all his terror, Drawlight had a great desire to get hold of the magician and shake him. He might have done it too, if he thought it would do any good. Tears of self-pity began to trickle down his face. Now Strange would kill him for not performing the third task and it was not his fault.

            “Bring me a drink of water!” said Strange, suddenly returning.

            Drawlight looked around. In the middle of the Venetian square there was a well. He went over to it and found a horrible old iron cup attached to the stones by a length of rusting chain. He pushed aside the well-cover, drew up a pail of water and dipped the cup into the water. He hated touching it. Curiously, after everything that had happened to him that day it was the iron cup he hated the most. All of his life he had loved beautiful things, but now everything that surrounded him was horrible. It was the magicians’ fault. How he hated them!

“Sir? Lord magician?” he called out. “You will have to come here to drink.” He showed the iron chain by way of an explanation.

            Strange came forward, but he did not take the proffered cup. Instead he took a tiny phial out of his pocket and handed it to Drawlight. “Put six drops in the water,” he said.

            Drawlight took out the stopper. His hand was trembling so much that he feared he would pour the whole thing on the ground. Strange did not appear to notice; Drawlight shook in some drops.

            Strange took the cup and drank the water down. The cup fell from his hand. Drawlight was aware—he did not know how exactly—that Strange was changed. Against the starry sky the black shape of his figure sagged and his head drooped. Drawlight wondered if he were drunk. But how could a few drops of any thing make a man drunk? Besides he did not smell of strong liquor; he smelt like a man who had not washed himself or his linen for some weeks; and there was another smell too—one that had not been there a minute ago—a smell like old age and half a hundred cats.

            Drawlight had the strangest feeling. It was something he had felt before when magic was about to happen. Invisible doors seemed to be opening all around him; winds blew on him from far away, bringing scents of woods, moors and bogs. Images flew unbidden into his mind. The houses around him were no longer empty. He could see inside them as if the walls had been removed. Each dark room contained -- not a person exactly -- a Being, an Ancient Spirit. One contained a Fire; another a Stone; yet another a Shower of Rain; yet another a Flock of Birds; yet another a Hillside; yet another a Small Creature with Dark and Fiery Thoughts; and on and on.

            “What are they?” he whispered, in amazement. He realised that all the hairs on his head were standing on end as if he had been electrified. Then a new, different sensation took him: it was a sensation not unlike falling, and yet he remained standing. It was as if his mind had fallen down…

He thought he stood upon an English hillside. Rain was falling; it twisted in the air like grey ghosts. Rain fell upon him and he grew thin as rain. Rain washed away thought, washed away memory, all the good and the bad. He no longer knew his name. Everything was washed away like mud from a stone. Rain filled him up with thoughts and memories of its own. Silver lines of water covered the hillside, like intricate lace, like the veins of an arm. Forgetting that he was, or ever had been, a man, he became the lines of water. He fell into the earth with the rain.


*  *  *


He thought he lay beneath the earth, beneath England. Long ages passed; cold and rain seeped through him; stones shifted within him. In the Silence and the Dark he grew vast. He became the earth; he became England. A star looked down on him and spoke to him. A stone asked him a question and he answered it in its own language. A river curled at his side; hills budded beneath his fingers. He opened his mouth and breathed out Spring...


*  *  *


He thought he was pressed into a thicket in a dark wood in winter. The trees went on forever, dark pillars separated by thin, white slices of winter light. He looked down. Young saplings pierced him through and through; they grew up through his body, through his feet and hands. His eyelids would no longer close because twigs had grown up through them. Insects scuttled in and out of his ears; spiders built nests and webs in his mouth. He realised he had been entwined in the wood for years and years. He knew the wood and the wood knew him. There was no saying any longer what was wood and what was man.

            All was silent. Snow fell. He screamed...




            Like rising up from beneath dark waters, Drawlight came to himself. Who it was that released him—whether Strange, or the Wood, or England itself—he did not know, but he felt its contempt as it cast him back into his own mind. The Ancient Spirits withdrew from him. His thoughts and sensations shrank to those of a Man. He was dizzy and reeling from the memory of what he had endured. He examined his hands and rubbed the places on his body where the trees had pierced him. They seemed whole enough; oh, but they hurt! He whimpered and looked around for Strange.

            The magician was a little way off, crouching by a wall, muttering magic to himself. He struck the wall once; the stones bulged, changed shape, became a raven; the raven opened its wings and, with a loud caw, flew up towards the night sky. He struck the wall again: another raven emerged from the wall and flew away. Then another and another, and on and on, thick and fast they came until all the stars above were blotted out by black wings.

Strange raised his hand to strike again...

            “Lord magician,” gasped Drawlight. “You have not told me what the third message is.”

            Strange looked round. Without warning he seized Drawlight’s coat and pulled him close. Drawlight could feel Strange’s stinking breath on his face and for the first time he could see his face. Starlight shone on fierce, wild eyes, from which all humanity and reason had fled.

            “Tell Norrell I am coming!” hissed Strange. “Now, go!”

            Drawlight did not need to be told twice. He sped away through the darkness. Ravens seemed to pursue him. He could not see them, but he heard the beating of their wings and felt the currents in the air that those wings created. Halfway across a bridge he tumbled without warning into dazzling light. Instantly he was surrounded by the sound of birdsong and of people talking. Men and women were walking and talking and going about their everyday pursuits. Here was no terrible magic—only the everyday world—the wonderful, beautiful everyday world.

Drawlight’s clothes were still drenched in seawater and the weather was cruelly cold. He was in a part of the city he did not recognize. No one offered to help him and for a long time he walked about, lost and exhausted. Eventually he happened upon a square he knew and was able to make his way back to the little tavern where he rented a room. By the time he reached it, he was weak and shivering. He undressed and rinsed the salt from his body as best he could. Then he lay down on his little bed.

            For the next two days he lay in a fever. His dreams were unspeakable things, filled with Darkness, Magic and the Long, Cold Ages of the Earth. And all the time he slept he was filled with dread lest he wake to find himself under the earth or crucified by a winter wood.

            By the middle of the third day he was recovered enough to get up and go to the harbor. There he found an English ship bound for Portsmouth. He showed the captain the letters and papers Lascelles had given him, promising a large fee to the ship that bore him back to England and signed by two of the most famous bankers in Europe.

            By the fifth day he was on a ship bound for England.

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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 518 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is not just a book about magic it's much more than that. As the story progresses we're compelled strangely by the slow but smoothly progressing story of this interesting novel in three parts. It is fueled namely by the tensions that build between Strange and Norrell, whose personalities are essentially polar opposites. In an only too human way Strange, we find, becomes so intent on eclipsing Norrell's magical talents that he even neglects his own wife. Rather than throw it in the reader's face, it views the history of the time: how women were treated (namely Strange's wife) comes into play here. Susanna Clark has handled her story with a finesse I don't see much in the literary world anymore, because she has this rare talent of hiding her themes underneath the story without entirely rushing the reader with them. It's the patience with which she builds her story that interested me so. This is what we need more of: a love for story telling, because when a work of fiction is approached in earnest with this type of enthusiasm the work transcends--like it should--mere escapism.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I both enjoyed and was thoroughly frustrated by this book. Each chapter taken individually is an entertaining and well written piece, and so I can't say I was ever bored while reading it. The characters are quirky and interesting, the concepts at play are fun and inventive, and the narrative style contains a dry tongue-in-cheek humor that I loved. However, this book is over 800 pages long, which is fine, but long books need a sense of an overarching plot unfolding as you go, and sadly that is missing from this book. While I was generally entertained as I read, I was frustrated as I got to pages 300, 400, etc that the book just seemed to be rambling without going anywhere. When the book did begin to pull all the loose ends together, it happened abruptly and ended fairly quickly, relative to the hundreds of pages of loose set-up that preceded it. In the end, I'm glad I finished reading it, and the ending was satisfactory. But it took me about 5 months to read, mostly because the lack of plot made it easy to put down and didn't offer a strong incentive to pick it back up again. Memorable story and characters, but it drags. Recommended only to those with great patience and a love of mild British humor and social comedy.
Joel_M More than 1 year ago
This definitely isn't your typical fantasy novel. Readers who only like the "swords and sorcery" fantasy sub-genre will hate it. This book feels like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen decided to collaborate on a fantasy novel after reading "On Fairy Stories" by Tolkien, "That Hideous Strength" by Lewis, and the "Discworld" novel "Sourcery" by Terry Pratchett. Most of it is set in England during the Napoleonic wars. There are some elements of alternate history as characters include real people like King George III, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Duke of Wellington. However, in Clarke's world, England has a grand history of magic and dealings with fairies. At the point where the book picks up, no one has actually practiced magic or had dealings with fairies for at least a couple hundred years . . . until Mr. Norrell shows up and, later, Jonathan Strange. Like the works of Austen or Dickens, the story is more character-focused than plot-driven. It kind of meanders its way (with occasional flurries of action or sudden surprises) through about 10 years as the two magicians seek to recover and restore English magic. The language is a bit old-fashioned, but with a very light tone and some dry/deadpan humor. There are lots of little "scholarly" footnotes citing (invented) sources and giving little snippets of "historical" occurences (usually involving fairies) that help give the book a feeling of depth. Despite the light tone, much of the book is dark and gothic. The fairies in the book are not the cutesy-Tinkerbell-Disney fairies who are tiny, mischievous-but-generally-good people with pretty little wings. They are the older version of fairies from English/Norse folklore . . . not necessarily small, nice, or sane (by human standards) and fond of abducting any human who strikes their fancy or strays into places they should not. Add to all this a prophecy of the "Raven King" (the founder of English magic who once ruled Northern England and will someday return) and you've got yourself an amazing fairy tale!
AlissaH More than 1 year ago
I adore this book. It's incredibly well written, taking the best styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and blending them into a seamless tapestry of literary wonder. It is delightful to read and I found myself throughout my days at work looking forward to when I could get home and crack it open. This book is subtle and doesn't pander. There aren't huge emotional moments or action scenes, so casual readers will probably not enjoy it, but in my opinion that's the beauty of this book- the strength is in each page, not the climax or the ending. Susanna Clarke has pulled off a masterpiece her first time out, and has done it
DAY-READER More than 1 year ago
Unique blend of fantasy and magic in it's type of era. I love the characters, as they are all very comfortable to me. From the first few chapters, I was so impressed with Mr. norrells character. Susanna has done a brilliant job with this story, i love all the footnotes and the sometimes lengthly details and wordings, she has incorporated. Most books leave alot of things unsaid or unanswered, But this book has no such dissapointments. I read this book toward winter which gave it that extra edge to me. A book to read by the fire and get lost in. A huge thank you to Susanna Clarke for a wonderfull and witty, RARE treat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I adore this book. It's incredibly well written, taking the best styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and blending them into a seamless tapestry of literary wonder. It is delightful to read and I found myself throughout my days at work looking forward to when I could get home and crack it open. This book is subtle and doesn't pander. There aren't huge emotional moments or action scenes, so casual readers will probably not enjoy it, but in my opinion that's the beauty of this book- the strength is in each page, not the climax or the ending. Susanna Clarke has pulled off a masterpiece her first time out, and has done it spectacularly!
BookaholicTracy More than 1 year ago
This was a great read. The writing is beautiful, the story wonderful. I can't wait for the next book to come out.
eswhydeee More than 1 year ago
The story is interesting and her characters are great. I love how everyone is kind of intertwined and you think someone appears just once but they come up again later. The humor in this book is subtle and funny in the best way. My only problem is that the book is crazy long. I wish she would have cut it down a lot. I'm not saying she should have taken out scenes (I expected Strange in the Peninsula to be boring but on the contrary it was amusing). But perhaps she could have been more concise. I know it's stupid to ask for less without being able to pinpoint what to shave off, but it was really annoying how long the book was. I've read and enjoyed longer books but the difference is here the length doesn't seem very necessary. Then again, this book is written in an older style (deliberate, as it was published in 04) so maybe I'm not in position to complain. In any case, this book is a great read but it took me a while to finish because it's so wordy I lost interest frequently. However if you're not bothered by the length (wordy and very detailed with lots of footnotes, though they can be very amusing), then PICK THIS UP because seriously, the magic, plot, characters, humor, and originality are really great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to first get used to the writing style, like I did with Dickens. Then, I did not hurry, I took my phone off the hook ' remember you can do this!' and loved my long vacation in this place, time and story. I now realize why I don't like short stories. When I have gotten settled and know the characters, the thing ends. Surely do recommend it as a winter's read. I read it last winter, and it seemed to go with the cold weather, being covered with quilts and drinking hot tea!! Cheers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As many have commented, the first 100 pages are a bit of a slog, partially due to the language. This is a very 'English' book. The phrases, the sentence all has a certain formality to it. It took me the first several chapters to even begin to grasp that aspect of its' style. As a 30-ish american, i had tried to read this several times before, each time getting mired in the phrasing (I have the same problem with Tolkien, actually. But not with Lovecraft. Go figure). The solution, for me at least, was Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. 3000+ pages of 17th & 18th-century dialogue and formal English writing, filtered through the sensibilities of a smart-aleck american author whose style I was already familiar with and enjoyed. Worked a treat. Once I was into the world created in 'Strange & Norrell', I could not leave. The depth of her wholly fabricated magical history of England is absolutely breathtaking, with all the wonder and horror of bona fide folk history and myth. I did find the villain absolutely terrifying, because beneath the foppish persona, there was nothing remotely human, no morality whatsoever. I'm a sucker for grand world-building(Dark Tower series, George RR Martin's 'Song of Ice & Fire' series, any number of well-written but rarely-played RPGs, etc), and she pulled it off wonderfully. For most american readers, this is a book that will require time and real effort to digest, but with a beautiful and rewarding payoff for those who do so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the very first page, Clarke's novel is nothing short of masterly. There may be a couple of spots where the basic plot is forgotten, but this is made up for by her witty humour and insightful musings. In fact the so-called lapses give the book a sense of reality, as if in fact life did go on as normal during the more than decade of the story's span. And what a glorious story it is! My favorite aspect of the novel is the complicated relationships between the characters. That is one important element that I believe is missing in a way from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell probably has the most character development I've ever seen in a novel of its genre. Overall an astonishing read, and a book that I shall read again in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If people don't stop comparing this to the Harry Potter series I am going to scream. It is NOTHING like them. Nor is it the 'adult Harry Potter' unless he has become exceedingly dull and self-centered. I stopped at about page 350, but as I have only ever left 2 books unread out of thousands happily completed 'Great Expectations and some sci-fi book that was unbelievably depressing', I will try to get back into it. I am not saying there are not interesting aspects and very detailed descriptions of some events, but I mainly kept reading because I thought that at some point it would gel. Please, oh please make it worth all the glowing reviews. I was so excited for a long, interesting, well-written book and am so sad that it has thus far only been one of those. I was reading it while standing in line at a store and the woman behind me said 'Um, sorry to interrupt, but what do you think of that book? I'm reading it and you are further into it than I am so I am wondering if it gets more interesting further in?' I was unhappy to tell her that at p. 325 nothing had grabbed me yet except a supreme annoyance with reviewers. Then I thought that maybe they were all playing a joke--they waded through it and now they want everyone else to have to as well. It's a great conspiracy perhaps, but so far, not a great story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want fast and action packed tales of war and battle then this is not your book. But if you want a book steeped in the misty lands of a slightly-off19th century England where magic held sway in the not too distant past, then look no further! It's slow but deliberate, and one of my new favorite books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you care for the old english way of writing or magic or both you might enjoy this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this book a few times and I still enjoy it!!! It can be a tad long winded at times but I've found many of this genre are that way. Its a wonderful book to sit down and savor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book! Many people say it drags on, but I feel that it really captures each scene vividly. I love the desriptons and word choice the author has, I can really lose myself in this story. It combines magic, sarcasm, love, and mystery into a story set in old England.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author is in desperate need of an editor. The book was unnecessarily long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like most of the other reviewers, I had to trudge through the first 60 pages or so. Unlike most other reviewers the story really didn't pick up for me. If you have a fondness for English gentry and/or military history this may be your bag. Not a bad read, but.......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well i will say the book started good then it lost its momentum
Moirwen More than 1 year ago
After reading numerous reviews on B&N and Amazon, I had high hopes for this novel. I was looking for a fantasy novel that was well-written and engaging. Clarke's writing style is impeccable, however, skip this book if you expect actual plot. I read fifty pages waiting for something to happen. Nothing. At one hundred pages into the novel, the plot still hadn't begun. I don't generally give up on books, but after two hundred fifty pages, I gave up. There is nothing to keep the reader engaged in the story, because there really isn't one. Character development is pointless if the characters don't do anything.
NicholasNW More than 1 year ago
The book is split into three different parts each one gripping and stylized in the english of eighteen century England. With a hint of fantasy that is mysterious and shocking your just craving for more. The first part tells the story of Mr Norell and his effort to be the first and only magican reviving and using english magic. The second part of the novel deals with Jonathan Strange and Ms.Strange as the venture from a Britsh rural area to the city of London. Mr Norell is suddenly entralled by Mr.Strange performing magic that result in Jonathan Strange becoming the first apprentice of english magic in years. Next as a result for reviving english magic the British government asks the magicans for help against the war between the European Alliance and Napoleon Bonaparte. The third part depicts what happens after the magician help in the war with Napoleon and the deal they have made with an insane magical being.
haren More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and was not disappointed in the least in this book. The characters are vivid, the story is full of depth, and the style of writing is charming.

I was happy to give this as a gift to others.

While the book has its dark points, and this is even true of the end, it is cathartic in that most people receive a fate that they are worthy of.
nprfan1 More than 1 year ago
That's the easiest way to describe this massive tome by first-time novelist Susanna Clarke. And it is massive, coming in at just under 800 pages.

The plot is far too complex to go into here, and it has been done by other reviewers before me. But this novel has all the ingredients of a Dickens story - a noble hero (although I will admit that Clarke's definition of "noble" is somewhat at odds with Mr Dickens'), a damsel of pure heart in thrall to a man of evil (here there are actually two such ladies, and owing to the subject matter the evil does not reside in a man), and interesting supporting characters whose names describe their personalities to a T.

Reviews that I have read of this book, by both professional reviewers and others, have described this book as an adult "Harry Potter". It is nothing of the kind. In fact, although the general subject of both this book and JK Rowling's series are the same, to compare these two is to compare apples and oranges.

That is not to say, however, that "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" is a bad book. Far from it, but you should be prepared to read it from a completely different viewpoint than you would a "Harry Potter" novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell is an outstanding book which combines English society of the early 1800s with magic. Susanna Clarke fills the book with entertaining footnotes which bring the book alive. Incredibly Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell is one of the best books ever written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A big rambling book, so be prepared to devote time. Beautifully written with the sensibilities of the early 19th century. It blends fact with fiction in a way that leaves you unsure of what really happened in history, and was there such a thing as English Magic? Well, there is now.