Review - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
I recently completed the 800 pages of Susanna Clarke's fantastical first novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I love these kinds of books with tons of backstory and they're even better when you don't have to turn to appendices to take advantage of them — instead there are page-spanning footnotes every so often. The author resisted the lure of the multi-volume series even though it seems as if the structure of the story would have quite easy to have put into that format.
The individual chapters are gemlike little stories that feature a cast of dozens and richly imagined settings in England and on the Continent around the time of the Napoleonic and Regency periods on this parallel existence.
The two characters in the title are portrayed in a way which highlights their individual shortcomings no less than their talents. The episodes which have them performing “practical magic” provide just the right amount of detail to make the suspension of disbelief possible.
I predict that it will be under a year that we'll start hearing about the first imitators coming out with their own novels with magicians in historical settings. As for a follow-up novel by Susanna Clarke herself, my guess is that some of the secondary players surviving from this book will come to the fore.