Has there been a film version?
No, New Line Cinema is currently having a script/screenplay version drafted.
Who are the main characters?
Gilbert Norrell – a cautious magician who believes in the study of books as a mean to magic and who is determined to be the only (or one of only two) magicians in all of Britain
Jonathan Strange – a practical magician who is arrogant and flamboyant, he believes the way to learn magic is through experience, expirimentation, and exploration magically
The Gentleman with the Thistle Down Hair – a fairy who delights in holding dancing balls, he takes a liking to Stephen Black and wants to make him king, to Arabella Strange, and to Lady Pole
John Childermass – Mr. Norrell’s somewhat servant, knows a little magic and has shifting loyalties
Lady Emma Pole – a young woman who is raised from the dead by Mr. Norrell with disturbing consequences
Stephen Black – a black butler in the Pole household
Arabella Woodhope Strange – Jonathan Strange’s wife, vivacious and proud of Jonathan’s accomplishments
Henry Lascelles – one of Mr. Norrell’s companions, arrogant, handsome, cynical and sometimes cruel
Christopher Drawlight – the other companion of Mr. Norrell, a man vastly in debt who loves to kiss butts (not literally)
Vinculus – a drunken street magician with a secret
John Uskglass, the Raven King – the man who founded the basis for English Magic in the twelfth century and then ruled for 300 years. Many believe he will return to rule again.
What’s it about?
The story is set in England during the Napoleanic War. Gilbert Norrell is a selfish and reclusive man who has taken up the study of English magic in an attempt to modernize it for reintroduction into British life. Jonathan Strange is a gentleman who stumbles on magic in a peculiar manner – through prophecy from a street magician. The two men are completely different in their philosophy on the practice of magic. Norrell believes magic should be studied solely through book and be entirely exclusive – he gets to select who is and isn’t worthy of magic. Strange, on the other hand, holds to the idea that the Raven King, John Uskglass, is the beginning and end of all magic; it should be studied as he studied it, through practical use and expirimentation. So it isn’t surprising that often the two magicians clash.
The third major element to this story is that of the Gentleman with the Thistle Down hair. He is a fairy obsessed with himself and surrounding himself with beautiful people. And how he gets mixed up with Strange and Norrell leads to consequences for both them and England which will alter the world forever.
Why is this book a classic?
It is too modern to be a classic, although it’s beginning to get classic novel treatment already. It is an enormously successful bestseller.
Why should I read this book?
If you’re into exciting books, this one may not suit you as it is mostly about relationships and the natural progression of events when the supernatural comes into play. It is at times both hopeful and desolate, frustrating and uplifting. I’d also recommend it if you want a wonderful example of character development.
Why did this book make your list?
It was given to me as a gift.
Has this book won any awards?
It won the 2005 Hugo Award for “Best Novel,” the 2005 “World Fantasy Award,” was nominated for both the 2004 Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award, and was longlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize.
“The war went from bad to worse and the Government was universally detested. As each fresh catastrophe came to the public’s notice some small share of blame might attach itself to this or that person, but in general everyone united in blaming the Ministers, and they, poor things, had no one to blame but each other – which they did more and more frequently.” – p 64
“She wore a gown the colour of storms, shadows and rain and a necklace of broken promises and regrets.” – p 151
“Mr. Norrell was very well pleased. Lord Liverpool was exactly the sort of guest he liked – one who admired the books but shewed no inclination to take them down from the shelves and read them.” – p 286
Here is the official website: http://www.jonathanstrange.com
This book is so hard to get into. I couldn’t figure out why such a wonderful book had such a boring and horrid beginning until I re-read it again. Then I realized it was because of how talented a character developer Susanna Clarke actually is. Almost too talented for her own good. The premiere chapters of the books focus on Mr. Norrell because Jonathan Strange isn’t a magician yet. And Mr. Norrell is possibly one of the most annoying and boring characters in any book I’ve ever cracked open. But once we are introduced to the man with the thistle-down hair and Arabella, and especially Jonathan Strange, things begin to pick up. The story is all encompassing in its breadth. When the author states the title as “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” she means it. The work covers the entire development of each as a publicly recognized magician and the progression of their relationship to each other.
I love how Clarke utilizes different word uses and spellings from the time period she’s writing in. She is a Mistress of character development – each person is fully realized, good or evil, or somewhere in between. She is a completely entrancing writer.