Usually I know how a book came into my life. A friend will recommend it, an author will blog about it, or it’ll be in a library display. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell just appeared.
I’ve owned a copy of the book for quite some time, having picked it up for a steal at a book sale. Ever since I’d noticed the striking cover, I’d been seeing copies of it everywhere. But, since nobody I knew had been talking about it, I let it remain just a blip on my radar. It sat on my shelf, quietly waiting for me to pay it some attention, until this holiday season, when I finally brought it down and dusted it off.
I’m so glad that I gave JS&MN a chance. I loved getting lost in its pages for hours at a time and frequently found myself allowing mugs of tea to grow cold at my side as I forgot about them, utterly transported to Clarke’s fascinating world. Looking back, the world is the main thing that kept me in the book. This is a book where not a lot actually happens, but is a fun time nonetheless.
This is probably because of Clarke’s winning style. She writes poetically, painting vivid scenes and characters, but never allows her turn of phrase to become stilted or flowery. I found myself copying page after page of quotations into the little notebook I keep for such things. There were just so many phrases and snippets of scenes that struck me as beautiful and I wanted to keep for myself.
I recommend JS&MN to anyone who likes fantasy worlds that are not far removed from our own, British humor, and/or thinks the theoretical study of magic long dead sounds like a fascinating pastime.
Do NOT read JS&MN if you don’t feel like getting into it for the long haul, because it’s a hunk of a book. I did not enjoy lugging that thing around during my travels. But, I’m glad that I did. Also, if you’re not happy unless there’s a lot of stuff going on, you should probably leave this one alone.
This review has been cross-posted to my Goodreads account.