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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 4:54 pm    Post subject: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Reply with quote

Hi all - I'm about 260 pages into "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke. Wanted to get some opinions on it; I'm enjoying the premise, but am on the fence about Ms. Clarke's writing style.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 2:35 am    Post subject: Hang tite Reply with quote

...I enjoyed her style. She has been compared to Jane Austin and Charles Dickenson. While I understand the comparison, i found her own individual traits just complex enough to keep it fun and not dry. I refer to her rhythm, pacing, use of descriptives, and the almost constant suprise of plot line...etc.
...perhaps you are not done yet,,I found taking the read in smaller chunks than say,,Runes,,was preferable. There are subtleties of plot that can be easily left by the wayside in a hurried read. I suspect she has done a lot of research on subject also...not that SRD doesn't do alot of research or that I read his works only once and in a hurry.
..In comparison,,I usually have to consult the Dictionary by Chapter two or three of a SRD work,,but by halfway thru JS and MN,,it dawned on me that i hadn't gone to the Merriam Webster once....!
...She is very british almost stereotypical in her Austin/ Dickenson way,,and in that there is a certain amount of self irony or as if making fun of herself..but there is a very good blend of serious and fantasy and reality,,and thats what I really enjoyed..by the end. the over all read was enchanting.....MEL
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2005 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you're right about reading it small doses - I do a chapter a night, and it's made it a much more enjoyable experience. I'm a big fan of Patrick O'Brien, and there's a lot of his influence in the book. I'm a bit impatient with the pacing - the book really grips me when it focuses on the Mrs. Pope/Stephen Black plotline, and gives the story a geniune air of menace, but I find that the Austen-esque social comedy tends to derail the flow. I also find that she uses footnotes a bit too much. Still, I can count one hand the number of fantasy authors that I think are worth their salt, and Ms. Clarke is certainly one of them.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2005 12:14 am    Post subject: one thing... Reply with quote

...She takes her time with developing whats really going on. I don't know if you are done yet..but..I will recommend...i have to be careful here..even the footnotes,,as hilarious as some are..are every bit of the story as the regular print..The pace picks up with lots of twists and turns,,but...uuummm...the slower first half becomes appreciated for its attention to detail, by the end.....MEL
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was easily the best novel of 2004. I agree the begining of the novel is a bit arduous, but the incredible detail, in particular with regards to magic is astounding. Incredible support characters Childemass, John Uskglass, and historical figures like Lord Byron, and the Duke of Wellington, add a great touch. Clark's prose is equally impressive IMHO, really establishing her setting very well, making you feel as if you were actually there. I absolutely love this novel, and it took me by surprise, as rarely do books deliver that had as much publicity as thsi novel did before it was released. Not only did Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell delivered, IMHO it exceeded expectations. A future classic IMHO, just a magical novel, and one of the msot impressive debuts in a long time.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 6:39 pm    Post subject: I Concur... Reply with quote

...I agree on that she made it very easy to visualize the locales and goings on. That made me think poorly apon the drawings or illustrations thru-out the book. They seemed not much more than sketches. My minds eye was doing much better imho.
...Yes, Clarke pulled it off, brought it all together in a most satisfactory manner....and she left the end,,just open enough for sequels!....MEL
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Egh - I don't know. I'm halfway through, and although I'm enjoying the book it's not living up to the hype. Clearly Clarke has been influenced by Patrick O'Brian, and J.K. Rowling, and being a huge O'Brian fan myself I appreciate the period in which the book is set. Both O'Brian and Rowling know how to drive their narratives, and this is the biggest frustration for me with the book.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2005 8:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats interesting, as I think it's one of the few releases in fantasy that experienced high publicity pre-release that has actually surpassed the hype.

I just don't see the JK Rowling similarities, that was part of pre-release hype, and honestly besides sharing the same publisher I see absolutely nothing similar between the authors, and although I enjoy the Potter novels, IMHO Rowling has never written any single novel close to the scope of Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Norrell. Rowling's novels are firmly novels aimed at juveniles, that can be enjoyed by adults as well (particularly her later novels), where Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is clearly not a juvenile read.

A more apt comparrison IMHO is Jane Austin.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2005 6:39 pm    Post subject: Good points... Reply with quote

....I can sympathize Withs Jay's " I don't know"...and that is exactly the point...Thedeeper one gets into the book ,,the more doubts one can have with,,is this book going anywhere?,,what is the point of all this?,,I mean, i hung in there ,,because I heard an interview of Clarke on the radio, so I had an idea,,that it was worth the effort.
..Apon the end,,It dawns on how masterful of a story teller she is. Somewhere in the read it occured to me ,,that maybe JS andMN was actually like LeCarre's "Tinker Tailor Soldeir Spy"..in that,,it is very much like a Mystery or Spy novel...all the clues are being dropped,,its up to the reader to put them together in the readers understanding of Time and Space...again,,I am making an oblique reference to the books structure being part of the " enchantment", ..The theme and plots as well as the structure of the storie make it all happen...MEL
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've only just started this (the Learned Society are all in York Cathedral listening to things), but I'm already enjoying it a lot. Clarke's language is very mannered, which is where the Austen comparisons seem truest, and the characters--all of whom seem minor at the moment, except for Mr. Norell--are painted in bold, broad, Dickensian strokes. I think I can almost hear a Rowlingesque burr underneath it all, but I'm not sure that it's so much Rowling's influence as a generally British sort of tongue-in-cheek-ness--as though Susanna Clarke is watching you out of the corner of her eye to see if you get the joke.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've decided to read this - just as soon as i'm done with Otherland and the Malazan novellas - based on all the good things I've heard. I saw it in the bookstore today, and was impressed with how bulky it appears - what's the pagecount?
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I've decided to read this - just as soon as i'm done with Otherland and the Malazan novellas - based on all the good things I've heard. I saw it in the bookstore today, and was impressed with how bulky it appears - what's the pagecount?


Unless their are difference in editions; 800 pages. Absolutely exceptional IMHO.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm about halfway through now. Has anyone else noticed the resemblance to Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita? It's not a ripoff or derivative sort of resemblance, it feels too original for that--but the gentleman with thistledown hair reminds me very much of Woland.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 8:20 pm    Post subject: Loved it... Reply with quote

I think this was one of the best books of 2004 by far. Maybe even the best one...

The story is compelling, the characters are quirky and believable, the language is extraordinary, the dry humor is omni-present and the overall experience is mind blowing.

Absolutely loved it.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

im just past half way and i think the footnotes although funny and informative kinda distract you
wonderring whether all of them at the end would be better?

or Clarke could have made some attemp to get this additional info in to the plot with dialogue or something
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally, I love the footnotes!Smile As mentioned above, this is one of the elite debut novels I have ever read.

Quote:
or Clarke could have made some attemp to get this additional info in to the plot with dialogue or something


Hmm..I don't know, it was already quite substantial in terms of dialogue already.


BTW what an incredibly imaginative and vivd ending!
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

as much as i am enjoying it it seems shes trying to create such a rich history of magic but cant do it with the plot and has to give us a footnote

shes creating a world but is just telling us not letting us find out through the plot

i am rambling now.............
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't agree...

I loved the way she included those footnotes on the actual pages since it lends a fictitious credence to the book that it is indeed a historical document you're reading.

Her intention is clear and I think she pulled it off beautifully.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i see what you mean but it does seem like a story if you add footnotes every 3 pages to explain the background to the plot the plot should explain the background
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the footnotes as they are--as Skeletal Grace says, they're a part of the conceit that the book you're reading is an actual historical document. If you've read much academic writing, you'll see that the footnotes are there to provide you with ancillary information that pertains to what you're reading without being absolutely necessary to understand the gist of it.
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