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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 24/5/2006 11:59:16 AM   
KennyM


Posts: 2816
Joined: 7/4/2006
Has anybody read this? I started it ages ago and kind of lost interest, even though it seems to be quite highly regarded. I found it quite difficult to get into and wondered if it would be worthwhile going back and starting it over again.
Post #: 1
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 24/5/2006 12:43:39 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54616
Joined: 1/10/2005
I think it is worth getting through - it is a decent enough story with enough imagination to make it interesting.

The writing is stodgy as hell though - self-consciously, and badly, attempting to ape Dickens most of the time.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 24/5/2006 7:46:36 PM   
Dirty Bear

 

Posts: 2608
Joined: 21/11/2005
I'd throw it on the bonfire.

If you look through any threads about overrated books, or books to avoid, you'll find a post from me about this book.

I have only read 300 pages of the tosh.... but it's 300 pages of tedium, and Strange hasn't appeared. The book has been next to my bed for a time when I'm not doing something better, but I usually am. Tonight it'll be sticking knitting needles in my eyes.

A lot of people have said it 'gets better soon', but deas any book that starts with 300 pages of twee, self-indulgent, aren't-I-a-clever-person crap as this really deserve to be finished? And more to the point... can you afford to waste a bit of your life (as I did) reading the utter hogwash I waded through...

The choice is yours....

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 3
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 12:56:02 AM   
Johnny Pneumonia


Posts: 434
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Where your dad works
I really wanted to like it, it had a lot of elements I enjoyed, but after about 100 pages the idea of wading through past the four-figure mark just put me clean off. Too many other books to read...


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Post #: 4
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 9:29:44 AM   
sharkboy


Posts: 6287
Joined: 26/9/2005
From: Belfast
quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

I think it is worth getting through - it is a decent enough story with enough imagination to make it interesting.

The writing is stodgy as hell though - self-consciously, and badly, attempting to ape Dickens most of the time.


I think this sums it up perfectly - getting used to the literary style was a bit of a chore and to be honest I think it was a bit of an affectation on the part of the author rather than serving any real purpose, but there is a great story buried under all that pretention and it's well worth persevering with.

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Post #: 5
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 9:43:42 AM   
demoncleaner


Posts: 2409
Joined: 3/10/2005
From: Belfast
I picked it up as a Christmas read and got no further than 100 pages.  I thought about it earlier this week when I discovered that Christopher Nolanís new film is The Prestige, about two rival magicians? And based on a novel by Christopher Priest, I think. (Perhaps I read it wrong and their two rival musicians!)  But has anyone read this, is it Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for book lovers?

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Post #: 6
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 10:55:09 AM   
Jim


Posts: 1244
Joined: 30/9/2005
I finally finished after more than a year, I kept losing interest for a few months. The ending was good but a little disappointing given the sheer amount of story before it (plus, having put it down for such a long time in-between, I'd forgotten a lot of what had happened and it was mentioned in the ending).

I really wanted to like it, it sounded right up my street, but it didn't grab me like I expected it to.


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RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 11:05:42 AM   
Krazy_Beyootiful

 

Posts: 2877
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Around Lil and Cray's ankles
I agree with that Jim, I wanted it to be something it wasn't and for the first couple of hundred pages I struggled with that. Once I got over it being totally different to what I was expecting I was able to relax and get into the story and I really enjoyed it. The writing style is a little tough, and certainly feels contrived at times but as elab and Sharky have said, the pure scope and imagination of the story more than made up for that in my eyes.

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Post #: 8
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 11:29:21 AM   
sanchia


Posts: 18296
Joined: 3/1/2006
From: Norwich
I struggled through this book and managed to finish it in about a month and a half (for a good book of this size it is usually about 3/4 days).  The main problem is that it does not engage the reader and it could never be said that you became enthralled by it.  The first half of the book is sheer tedium with characters who you dislike at best and more likely hate.  I will admit that once Jonathan Strange is introduced the story does pick up slightly but the pacing is still so poorly laid out that by that time you really don't care.  It seems like there are 200 or more pages which are totally pointless and are simply there in order to show the research the author has done.  If ever there was an example of a story being created to fit the research rather than researching the areas to enhance the story this is it.  It is imaginative but the presentation is so poorly constructed in terms of enjoyment that it leeches any pleasure that could be gained.

Overall, I agree with the others who have posted here, a dull  and unengaging book that does not provide any reward to warrant the amount of time wasted reading it

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Post #: 9
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 2:18:43 PM   
Conductor71


Posts: 53
Joined: 3/4/2006
I do agree that this is a hard book to get into. I gave up once, and started again when I had plenty of time.
However, i'm not sure I agree with the criticisms of the writing style. i saw that more as a way of building the atmosphere. It also fits quite well with the character of Mr Norrell, and also how magic had become perceived - the sort of false intellectualism and pomposity.
I ended up almost ignoring that, and enjoying the story.

I'd recommend sticking with it, but only if you're in the right mood.

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Post #: 10
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 5:38:02 PM   
KennyM


Posts: 2816
Joined: 7/4/2006
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dirty Bear

I'd throw it on the bonfire.

If you look through any threads about overrated books, or books to avoid, you'll find a post from me about this book.

I have only read 300 pages of the tosh.... but it's 300 pages of tedium, and Strange hasn't appeared. The book has been next to my bed for a time when I'm not doing something better, but I usually am. Tonight it'll be sticking knitting needles in my eyes.

A lot of people have said it 'gets better soon', but deas any book that starts with 300 pages of twee, self-indulgent, aren't-I-a-clever-person crap as this really deserve to be finished? And more to the point... can you afford to waste a bit of your life (as I did) reading the utter hogwash I waded through...

The choice is yours....


This is about where I threw in the towel Dirty Bear. Was dissapointed cause its quite a good premise for a book as well. No-ones really rating it, which is quite surprising. Thank god, cause I thought it was just me!

< Message edited by KennyM -- 25/5/2006 5:39:03 PM >

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Post #: 11
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 6:01:03 PM   
sanchia


Posts: 18296
Joined: 3/1/2006
From: Norwich
quote:

ORIGINAL: KennyM

No-ones really rating it, which is quite surprising. Thank god, cause I thought it was just me!


I must admit I was surprised as well as I had heard a lot of critical acclaim for the book.  If anything it is a clever premise but it's just not accessible enough.

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Post #: 12
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 8:09:43 PM   
Dirty Bear

 

Posts: 2608
Joined: 21/11/2005
It's all a mater of taste though, isn't it? A lot of people on here seem to like it.... but even they seem to admit it's badly written and pretentious.

I just couldn't get over the copious footnotes that add absolutely NOTHING to the story, which could be read quite happily without them. I flicked forward and saw many pages where the footnote was longer than the story!! I just thought this was self-indulgent twaddle. Just like I imagine with terry Pratchett, I just imagined the author congratulating herself as she wrote another 'witty' line, or a 'great' observation.

I also agree with the person who said that there was not one character you could empathise with or even like remotely in the first 300 pages. All are totally vile, and I just stopped caring. The world was so grey and boring... which she obviously wanted to portray, but it had no character, wit, depth of any type for me.

Some say it gets better after Strange appears, but surely if it's rubbish after 300 pages, you've given it enough of a chance.

I just think she wanted to write a 'big' book and only had enough material for about 200 pages of a kiddies' book, so padded it out with tosh.

But hey... I'm happy to admit that perhaps I'm missing something. I was never a great Dickens' fan anyway, so a sub-standard Dickens won't float my boat either. 

I just feel it was marketed as a totally different type of book to what it was (a bit like the film Sideways, but at least that was good!!), and it seems a lot of people were suckered in like me. At least my massive hardback black copy only cost £3.99 on Amazon in a sale. I now know why.

And this is my point about writing. Pretentious, arty-farty stuff isn't always good..... give me Dan Brown over this shite any day.

< Message edited by Dirty Bear -- 25/5/2006 8:11:18 PM >

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Post #: 13
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/5/2006 9:15:48 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54616
Joined: 1/10/2005
quote:

ORIGINAL: demoncleaner

I picked it up as a Christmas read and got no further than 100 pages.  I thought about it earlier this week when I discovered that Christopher Nolan's new film is The Prestige, about two rival magicians? And based on a novel by Christopher Priest, I think. (Perhaps I read it wrong and their two rival musicians!)  But has anyone read this, is it Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for book lovers?


I still have this in the back of my bookshelf somewhere. I have to admit I didn't really buy the central premise, but I did still enjoy the book. I preferred others of his although I was wondering if the idea might work better visually.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

(in reply to demoncleaner)
Post #: 14
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 4/6/2006 5:56:44 AM   
three_legs_stella


Posts: 2
Joined: 4/6/2006
From: Gosford, Australia.
I started reading this self indulgent piece of...well, crap, really...about a year ago. I got about a third of the way through it and had to give it in because it was possibly one of the most dull books I have ever read.

The Author seems to spend about a hundred pages describing one thing and by the end of it I seem to have forgot what the hell it was she had been describing. The story was slow to develop and overall just not that exciting.

However, if you're looking for something to put you to sleep, I reccommend it!

(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 15
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 5/6/2006 3:00:35 PM   
Helen OHara

 

Posts: 3565
Joined: 15/9/2005
It was rather dense, but I rather liked it. I'm not a Dickens fan either. But I'd recommend The Prestige over this - it's much easier to read and a lot more fun.

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Post #: 16
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 8/8/2006 4:42:13 PM   
tbird


Posts: 4118
Joined: 10/10/2005
From: the cupboard under the stairs
I FINALLY finished reading this at the weekend after what seemed like an absolute age getting through it. I did enjoy it but it certainly isn't the best or most enjoyable book I've ever read. It definately wasn't a page-turner.

It's a shame really because it took so long to reach a conclusion that by the end it was such a non-event that I really didn't care despite all the build up of the characters and their relationships to eachother. Really the ending seemed a bit like a cop-out to me.



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Post #: 17
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 9/8/2006 10:39:18 PM   
Kenji

 

Posts: 72
Joined: 6/8/2006
Well, i enjoyed it! And good to find a bestseller that covers a patch near me- the Welsh border/Shropshire, round the village of Clun-, that's certainly not the most fashionable area. I didn't find it slow or the style off-putting at all, but engrossing from start to finish.

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Post #: 18
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 17/8/2006 8:56:06 AM   
BelfastBoy

 

Posts: 587
Joined: 30/11/2005
This book has many flaws, and as aspiring author myself (who will probably never achieve anything), I feel a bit of jealously that it ever even got published. Just goes to show that a personal connection to an established author goes a hell of a long way - I think Susanna Clarke was lucky enough to know Neil Gaiman in some way, and he obviously has provided many glowing words of praise for the book. Otherwise, I reckon it would be pretty much unsellable - can you imagine trying to write a synopsis for it?! Ostensibly, it's an overlong, slow (occasionally painfully slow) fantasy novel with an overall lack of dramatic tension. Furthermore, it adds fuel to my (only half-serious) conspiracy theory about how Oxbridge types stick together and get ahead in life. The publishing industry is no exception - Clarke is an Oxford graduate, and people like Zadie Smith seem to be groomed for stardom because they can get in touch with the right people at university. (I know that's a horribly sweeping generalisation, don't shoot me down for blowing off some steam!)

Personal bitchiness aside, I think there is a lot to appreciate about the book, although it's hard to 'like'. For a start, it evokes a historical period wonderfully, creating and sustaining it's own counter-historical world very well. The author displays a fabulous sense of imagination, although she luxuriates so much in her knowledge of the past that there is a real tendency to self-indulgence. It's difficult to read, with few engaging characters and is generally prolix and overlong. Furthermore, the elaborate and archaic style means that there's a lack of narrative directness, and events can be difficult to follow. Sometimes I was wishing that Clarke would just get to the point! The climax is something of a damp squib, leaving the reader with a sense of - all that buildup, for what exactly?

< Message edited by BelfastBoy -- 17/8/2006 9:00:13 AM >

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Post #: 19
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 29/8/2006 8:52:39 PM   
smileypete

 

Posts: 79
Joined: 3/10/2005
 
well, I got through it...

it was ok, didn't really grab me but i did want to finish it rather than just leave it.
some good ideas but just felt a bit 'flat'.

(in reply to KennyM)
Post #: 20
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 23/2/2007 5:40:01 AM   
livila


Posts: 1296
Joined: 30/9/2005
I finished this book a couple of weeks back. But, I didn't read it I listened to it. All 26 hours.
I hadn't a clue what it was about or what to expect. With speaking books, which I listen to alot of while I work, I'd say 30-50% of the book is made by the person who reads it. A brilliant book can be ruined by an awful reading and a weak book can be enhanced by a great reading. In this case the reading was excellent.

I really enjoyed the story, and the pace. But I have a feeling if I'd read it I may have found it hard to get into.
At first I kept on expecting the magicians to be a hoax. It reminded me alot of the characters from MR James ghost stories - scholarly old men buried beneath their books having scary things happen to them. Both main characters aren't likeable particularly, yet there is something sympathetic about them. I loved all the little story asides and footnotes that were peppered throughout.
I can understand why people don't like this. I like Dickens, Trollope and James so I enjoyed this.

The ending was a little weak, but I am going to try another of her books.

< Message edited by livila -- 23/2/2007 7:33:37 AM >

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Post #: 21
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/7/2008 2:18:40 PM   
Fluke Skywalker


Posts: 9540
Joined: 23/4/2006
From: the dark side of the sun
Looks like people have suffered a similar fate to myself reading this book - I got it out because it won the Hugo but now I'll think twice before I believe a recommendation from that award again.

I've decided I can't be arsed so could people kindly answer the following?

1. Does Strange get his girl back?
2. What happens to Norrell
3. Does the bastard Fairy get his comeuppance?

Many thanks in advance!!

(in reply to livila)
Post #: 22
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/7/2008 11:46:03 PM   
mafyou


Posts: 2562
Joined: 23/11/2005
I don't understand how you can not want to finish it if you have things you want answered. I read the book when it first came out and i really can't remember. I should read it again. I really enjoyed it. It was tough going but i imagine it's a lot easier a second time around.

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Post #: 23
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 25/7/2008 11:56:33 PM   
Hex


Posts: 1371
Joined: 26/7/2006
I bought it during uni and would always try to read a bit during classes. But I didnt get very far. It was alarmingly like the history/english text books on my course and it didnt feel like I was taking a break from anything.

Bad judgement on my part but I may give it another go.

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Post #: 24
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 2/6/2009 8:35:11 PM   
general_potatoface


Posts: 107
Joined: 3/1/2006
quote:

ORIGINAL: Fluke Skywalker

Looks like people have suffered a similar fate to myself reading this book - I got it out because it won the Hugo but now I'll think twice before I believe a recommendation from that award again.

I've decided I can't be arsed so could people kindly answer the following?

1. Does Strange get his girl back?
2. What happens to Norrell
3. Does the bastard Fairy get his comeuppance?

Many thanks in advance!!


1. Yes.

2. Norrell and Strange wind up trapped within a column of darkness trap spell thing. They decide this is a great oppurtunity, what with all the time they'll now have to study magic without distractions, and maybe they'll eventually be able to break the spell.

In the context of the other surrounding events, that does make some sense.

3. Yes.

I enjoyed it. Genuinely. I wouldn't call it badly written or pretentious, she was writing within the conceit of being a writer contemporary to the events of the story. (Possibly self-indulgent, but I think it works.

I wouldn't call it slow, it's leisurely, very episodic, the events are strung out over the course of years.

I liked practically all the characters.

It's not a book for everyone, clearly, but for those whose taste it fits.

And Dirty Bear denigrated Pratchett, now their opinion no longer counts.

(in reply to Fluke Skywalker)
Post #: 25
RE: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - 14/6/2009 3:02:09 PM   
jobloffski

 

Posts: 1895
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: elsewhere
Seems like nobody really realised that the book is a PARODY of the kind of writing it mimics. It is often hilarious, and includes subtle piss takes of other books in the genre. For instance at one point, in a single sentence it gently disses lord of the rings by refering to users of magic who distill their essence into objects such as rings which they tend to lose, and then have a devil of a job trying to find again.


This book, is deliberately earnest in its tone but if you get into the frame of mind that preapres you to laugh at the level of its pomposity its full of cool imagery and pompous characters that it continually takes the piss out of for being so pompous.

And the copious footnotes deliberately add to the sense of aimlessness the book appears (but only appears) to have. It all falls into place sweetly, and just in case anybody wants any kind of reason to read this, one of the story elements is an old master (magician) seeming to be on a predestined path to a showdown with an old pupil...

The book is so heavy with the motifs of the kind of fantasy tales that otherwise seem so popular on these forums I am astounded that it isn't more popular.

I urge anyone to try it again if they couldn't get into it before and get into a different frame of mind and see it as part of the star wars/rings/potter genre, only written for people who think those are all too childish. Cos even those who don't think they're all too childish should find some kind of enjoyment out of this (apparently) misunderstood wistful tale that is deliberately whimsical because like many magicians it seeks to create an illusion by employing distraction techniques

Seriously, the 'learned' tone is for comic purposes because lots of the characters in the book are trying to be the main man while actually being completely clueless. And the humorous tone occasionally gives way to spookiness and wonder, and all else you might expect from the genre.

< Message edited by jobloffski -- 14/6/2009 8:55:17 PM >


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