Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell

by Susanna Clarke

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke.

When I started Clarke’s novel, I felt a little Jane Austen coming on — a comedy of manners set in a more polite age. No, maybe it’s a battle of wills between two sorcerers; one good, one evil — but I was never quite sure which was which. No, it’s no longer light and superficial, once the surface of the carefully mannered world had been scratched, truly dark and unpleasant things happen to innocent and undeserving men and women. It takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, and people look back fondly at the era of good English magic, once a noble profession. The rather prissy Mr Norell becomes an unlikely celebrity for bringing old-fashioned magic back to the fore. But his protégé and rival, Jonathan Strange, wants to open the gates of Fairy and bring back the mysterious Raven King.  We spend some time in Fairy, and it’s no Magic Kingdom. Imagine instead endlessly and joylessly dancing the night away with dead-eyed strangers in a series of crumbling ruins — I know! Just like college!

Clark’s parallel worlds of England and Fairy were a little scary and very unexpected. I look forward to see where she’s going next.

The book is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke.  I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


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