Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

No, I haven’t been swallowed whole by the vagaries of the internetz. Yes, I’ve also been reading all this while. But I’m not up for long and detailed reviews so what I’ll do is post snippets on what I’ve read in the last two months through the next couple of days or so. Here’s the first one.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell reads exactly like what it purports to be—a history of magic in early 19th century Britain. It doesn’t really have a very plot-like beginning, middle and ending. There is, of course, a coherent story but one is left with the sense of there not being really a point to any of it till one realizes that well, this is, as the author would like us to have, a narrative of the history of magic.

As behooves a narrative about history, the book has hundreds of footnotes as contextual explanations. The footnotes expand on and give the backstories of the persons and events that are referred to in the main tale. These footnotes are stories unto themselves and in my opinion one of the best features of the book. The two main characters are sketched and drawn out really well. I didn’t like Mr. Norell initially—exactly, I think, as Miss Clarke intended.

However, this is a LONG book and normally, I’m one to enjoy excessive details and don’t require a reason for all the minutiae. But Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was a bit much for me—I’m glad I made it through to the end of the book but I certainly did not see what the fuss (about this book) was all about!