A most excellent book indeed. I would hardly recommend any other book about magic.
As others have said, sometimes very slow going. Occasionally I wondered if I wanted to continue. But I'm glad that I did. It doesn't end with a bang or even have many overly exciting moments. It feels more like a good friend chatting about their week. Sometimes they go on about stuff and you start to glaze over, but, for the most part, you're interested in what they have to say because you care for them and you're enjoying just spending time with them over a cup of tea.
This is a very slow going novel. I keep listening hoping for a plot twist or for the plot to become stronger and instead I am disappointed. I play this book and I am asleep with in 15 minutes.
Ultimately I liked this book quite a lot, even though it is clearly not a book that will please everyone. I almost gave up from the dreary mundanity of the first quarter of it. Halfway through, though, I found I was looking forward to finding out what happened next, and I have to say I was thoroughly engaged going into the final quarter. It's a a book that builds very ponderously, but steadily, snowballing until you find that ultimately there were reasons for going into the little details that seemed only to drag the story down at first. If you're still with this book after the first 13 discs, expect to be glad you did stick with it.
I was very excited to get this book. It sounded so intriguing - Yorkshire (where I am from), witchcraft, suspense...unfortunately I couldn't get past the third cd. Big disappointment.
Reading over these reviews shows how utterly personal one's response to a book is. Go ahead and say why it didn't work for you, but don't tell people it's boring and not to bother with it! It deserves more credit than that.
I loved this novel. It's an incredibly intricate work that harkens back in style to great 19th century fiction. True, it's slow to get going, but it really takes off after a certain amount of groundwork, and ends up galloping to an exciting finish. I became totally involved and found it entertaining, very funny, and moving.
I am a slow reader and know that if I had tried to tackle it in print I would never have gotten into it, but Simon Prebble's narration is incredible; he so perfectly renders all the characters, whether male, female, human, faerie, heroic, dastardly, or utterly eccentric. It's rich in atmosphere, mystery, and incredibly vivid characters. If you're curious about it, give it a try and find out for yourself.
Perhaps I would have found the book interesting and engaging had I "stuck with it", but I found the narrative repleat with verbage that (at the beginning stage of the book anyway) makes it drag on seemingly without a point and without any apparent future reward to unfolding plot. Description without apparent direction is like reading a phone directory -- for a book of this genre it is tedium beyond tolerability. Somewhere in the beginning of a mystery book, the reader must be given a clue to plot and circumstance. Had I been reading this book I would have put it down at page 5 -- mind you I was listening to the audio book and (even with Simon Prebble's excellent audio acting), I couldn't listen past the first CD.
Although this book was written well enough, it tended to go around in circles without building any kind of anticipation or excitement.
It should have been edited down somewhat to make it a better book. Not my favorite.
Hard to believe a novel of such detail would translate well to audiobook yet it does. I've seen the paperbook so I knew what I was getting into time-wise but didn't expect such a level of detail in Clarke's background due diligence. Really quite amazing. Clarke is either one of the most interesting people you would meet or a border freak. Either way, I listened to the last portion having thoroughly enjoyed the book. I very much recommended particularly if you have a penchant for detail.
If you like Jane Austen and magic, you'll love this book. It is long (a plus to me), well read (the reader has numerous voices and a nice ironical emphasis on phrases), and is simply highly amusing. There is a lot of detail and description interspersed with numerous footnotes enurmerating the history of "English Magic". I found the pace, conversations, and detail delightful - my husband said it needed more fast action. It is set in the Regency period of England and creates a whole new history of England. The story takes you from the countrysides of England to London where you meet George the 3rd, on to Spain with the Duke of Wellington, and then Italy with Lord Byron. It is a whole new history of England that seamlessly intersperses the historical chronicles of the magical Raven King with the throughly "modern" pursuit of magic in the sophisticated 19th century England.
Deceptively subtle. The plot seems slow in developing, but the wit and wholly convincing mythology sustain the reader until he realizes that all the seemingly disconnected sidelines have been part of an enormous chain of events that may transform the very nature of England.
Ms. Clarke's presentation of early 19th century England is so convincing, I actually tried to look up the Raven King in English mythology, before I realized he was a fictional character.
This book stands is truly great, as literature and as fantasy.
Thoroughly enjoyed the story about magicians and magic in an alternate England during the era of the Napoleonic wars. Very rich detail creates a wonderful and convincing world. Terrific characters. The narration was well done and nicely paced.
I agree that it starts off a little slowly, but patience will be rewarded. I thought this was a great, interesting book and I couldn't wait to get into my car to listen to each day. By far one of the best books I've rented from SA. The reader's voice was blended well with the book's material and was very easy to listen to.
The most slow moving story ever written. I couldn't listen to more than 10 or 15 minutes without finding that I wasn't paying any attention. I originally tried the print version and gave up, thinking that it had to be more interesting as an audio version. I was wrong.
I have this book at home in paperback and thought I might get through it faster as an audio book, but have decided to try the paperback again as this didn't go over well for either my husband or me. We tried listening to it in the car on a road trip and my husband was bored with it from the start. I had more patience for it and continued to try to listen to the CDs, but even I decided to abandon it. The reader does a good job and is enjoyable to listen to, but I think this dense text is best left in print.
I would have given this zero stars, but the system stops at one. Please don't waste your time. This book is over 20 discs long and I couldn't stand more than the first two.
Well - it's a good thing that I am obsessive-compulsive about finishing what I start. I did not "engage" with the story until about disc 18. So, if you are thinking about renting this book, you must have the patience of Job. It eventually picks up - and was quite an undertaking for the writer. In all fairness, I am not a fan of fantasy and listened to it more for the historical background of Wellington and Napoleon than I did anything else.
Susanna Clarke, what were you thinking? This book is the single most boring and meaningless book that I have ever read or listened to. I tried and truly I never gave up as I continued to listen through 20+ discs optimistically believing it had to get better and ...it never did! It was too long, too detailed, and frankly too much for a novel. Susanna, if you want to write a treatise, or history book then don't fool us by calling it a novel.
What a treat this book is! Even the best writers of fantasy usually require our cooperation in sustaining their fictional worlds. With this book, I had to keep reminding myself that England *doesn't* have magicians and fairies, and that most of the characters in the book are not real people. The writer is ably aided in this task by the reader, who has given life and breath to a wide range of unique characters, including a villain of a fairy who is quixotic, petty, and eerily nasty. Brilliant!
I almost stopped listening to this book after the first couple cds. I think author intentionally keeps the first part of the book pretty unremarkable as far as the events and characters. Later on things get very interesting and the characters become much more intriguing. I would definitely recommend this book and advise the listener to be patient.
This story is slow and dull. It took until the 25th disk for any kind of real drama to be created. The ending in the 26th disk was disappointing to say the least. The characters are neither admirable nor very remarkable. We do not even meet Mr. Strange until we are a third through the book. I was hoping for something that would really excite my mind and fire my imagination - this did neither. Its a hum drum examination of english aristocracy and the supposed re-birth of English magic. Mr. Norrell, one of the two main characters, claims he wants to bring about the restoration of English magic. However, he really only wants to do it if he is the sole practitioner and it is done on his terms. Not an impressive piece of literature. If you like period pieces, maybe you will enjoy it more than I did. The only thing I even remotely enjoyed was the twist placed on the conflict between Napolean and Wellington.
An enchanting book. I applaud the author, Susanna Clark, for her incredible ability to grab you from the very beginning and for all 800 some pages never let you go. And how well she satisfies the child in all of us who loves magic.
A wonderful experience
This is one of the best books I have been engrossed in in a long time. Such an intricately thought out world, and wonderfully read. I didn't want it to end. All of the charcters were finely drawn, and the history of England during the Napoleonic wars was made quite interesting as well. I accidentally left 2 of the cd's in my car before going on vacation, and was bereft not to be able to continue the story on the airplane. Yes, it's long, but I can't imagine what would be edited out.
The most enjoyable book I have read or listened to in quite some time. 26 CDs is indeed a bit daunting, but Clarke's characters and the world they inhabit are so exquisitely crafted, that once you enter that world, a mere 26 CDs seems unfairly short.
Admittedly those who crave stories propelled chiefly by a rapidly moving plot, may be disappointed. But for those who enjoy finely drawn characters, engaging dialogue, subtle wit, and a richly imagined and described universe, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a rare treat.
Shockingly dull, unconvincing, hardly a can't-put-down read. Gave it a fair chance with 5 of the 26 Cds, but gave up because the story never introduced the reader to anything of historical substance. Love a long read, but the idea of 26 cd's of this was unthinkable.
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