Friday, June 16, 2006

Strange Tales

A while back on the blog I told you I was just starting to read Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.’ Well I finally finished the book. (Took ages to read the first half but thanks to the dullness of the World Cup have managed 500 pages in four days – excellent!)

Have to say the main thought when I put the book down was simply ‘and!?’. On the SFX Forums somebody posted that it’s a long book about nothing. I have to agree. When it ends you do have that feeling but then when you sit and think about it a lot does actually happen.

The main problem is the blurb on the back of the book – it sets you up for this great battle between two magicians when in fact nothing of the sort happens – they just have a mild disagreement about 600 pages in.

I love Clarke’s imagination when it comes to the different magic we are ‘shewn’ throughout the book however I do find the characters pretty boring. I agree that the book could do with having 200 or so pages chopped out of it but then again would be hard pressed to say where.

Strange’s adventures in Spain, for me were some of the most enjoyable parts of the novel however they did nothing to further the story along other than boost Strange’s ego.

Also the resolution is disappointing. Again I was imagining a great battle and when Strange & Norrell attempt to summon the Raven King really though the pay off was coming. Instead it all seems to be over in one paragraph as Stephen Black and the gentleman with Thistledown hair have a bit of a falling out.

It’s just a strange book (no pun intended) in that while I enjoyed reading it I felt dissatisfied with it. I didn’t get enveloped into the world of English Magic but felt distanced at all times. Hard to describe really. I doubt I would read any more of Clarke’s writing by choice and doubt I’d recommend it to anyone. She shows plenty of talent but the story and its world just didn’t leap into my mind like some novels do.

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