Literary Corner Cafe

Friday, January 11, 2008

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - I'm Undecided

I have to admit, I expected more when I first plunged into Susanna Clarke's huge Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I'm not usually a lover of fantasy, but I adored "getting lost" in the world of Strange and Norrell. I kept turning pages, wanting to know if their alliance would last and if either would ever encounter the dreaded Raven King.

Susanna Clarke is a marvelous writer with a wonderful imagination. I particularly like her arch tone that is so reminiscent of Jane Austen. The trouble with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is that the book lacks focus. There is no central conflict, no overriding story question to occupy readers' minds. There is also too little interaction between Strange and Norrell and too little of anything from the Raven King. Near the end of the book, Strange makes some decisions that seem distinctly out of character for him, though they are very interesting.

Despite the above, I did enjoy reading the book. I even bought Clarke's book of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and while I haven't read every one, I have thoroughly enjoyed the ones I have read. And the cover is gorgeous, with its grey background and bright pink petunias.

Even though I have mixed feelings regarding Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, at this point, I think I will buy the next book Susanna Clarke publishes. Anyone who can write with an arch tone that rivals Jane Austen can't help but get my vote.

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