Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a wonderful book by Susanna Clarke that came out back in 2004. It’s a doorstop of a volume, but uses those pages to create a fantastically detailed world, the sort you feel like exists far beyond the confines of the pages. I suppose it does, since it’s called Britain, but last I checked ours doesn’t have magic. Neither does the one at the start of the book, in which magic has been dead for centuries, until the two eponymous gentlemen bring the magic back to Napoleonic era Britain.
It’s the slowest of slow burn stories, the sort that aren’t gradually ratcheting up tension towards a single direction, but in taking the time to explore the side stories and implications of the story being told rather than rushing headlong down the plot train. You should read it. If you have, read it again, reading’s good for you.
BBC is adapting the novel in a six hour mini-series this summer, which will also be landing on BBC America because they’re colonizing us all over again.
Obligatory plot summary:
Set at the beginning of the 19th century, England no longer believes in practical magic. The reclusive Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan) of Hurtfew Abbey stuns the city of York when he causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. With a little persuasion and help from his man of business, Childermass (Enzo Cilenti), he goes to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon. It is there Norrell summons a fairy (Marc Warren) to bring Lady Pole (Alice Englert) back from the dead, opening a whole can of worms…
Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) is charming, rich, and arrogant. While trying to secure his beloved Arabella’s (Charlotte Riley) hand in marriage, he meets the magician of Threadneedle Street, Vinculus (Paul Kaye), who tells him he is destined to be a great magician. A shaken and disturbed Strange initially dismisses the claims, but intrigue overcomes; and in an attempt to find his occupation, he tries to practice magic…
Here’s the trailer from a couple of weeks ago, that I don’t think we ended up posting here because we are terrible terrible people:
And here’s the clip just released this morning:
Honestly, it had me at the enormous library, because I’m nothing if not predictable.