Van has finished reading…Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

15 Dec

I scarcely know where to begin with this book. It’s a tome indeed, running to a thousand pages, but there was surely some powerful magic going on; it didn’t once feel a burden to read. There must have been some loose time pressed between the pages, so quickly they appeared to pass. And as for the manner of my speech – well, one wonders that some mischievous sprite hasn’t spent his time since dandling on the end of my tongue!

It’s the commonplaceness of this world’s otherworldliness that makes it so strong. To have had those wonders presented as the marvels they really are would have centred them in our focus. Instead they are merely ‘reported’ so that our interest can linger on those things that are more fundamental to the story – the friendships, the rivalries, the mores that make the characters who they are. I couldn’t help thinking too that there was a distinct laughing-up-the-sleeve at the academic versus practitioner contention. Of course we see so very clearly as a result how very much the one cannot breathe without the other (and so feel better about our own wisdom at not stooping so low! Ahem).
As to the characters that populate this world, they could almost make quite a literary gathering. I’m no broad reader of 18th and 19th century literature, but I had the distinct impression that a fair few of Susanna Clarke’s cast in the story could be caricatures crafted about the bones of favourites from that period.

It’s a real joy, this book. I could almost wish it were shorter so I could read it again quickly, but that would be to do it an injustice. Then again, maybe there’s something in Ormskirk’s Revelations that can effect some elasticity in the timeline.

PS: And I’ve just seen the cast list for the BBC series due out in the New Year: Paul Kaye as Vinculus; John Heffernan as Henry Lascelles; Eddie Marsan as Mr Norrell; Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange. I. Can’t. Wait!

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2 Responses to “Van has finished reading…Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke”

  1. thousandmonkeys 15/12/2014 at 7:11 pm #

    You got on with this novel a lot better than I did (http://thousandmonkeys.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/jonathan-strange-and-mr-norrell-by-susanna-clarke/), which is good because it seems like such a brilliant undertaking. Are you going to draft a historically set story quickly while your language is still in the zone..?

    • vanisreading 16/12/2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Ha! You flatter my ability…no, I think HIlary is safe for a while, the urge to fiction historically is not yet upon me! Hopefully you’ll get on better with the bbc series – they’ll doubtless cut to the chase a little more readily.

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