A strange case for Mr. Norrell Saturday, Dec 11 2010 

At 800 pages, Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” could intimidate even the most avid reader. But don’t let it’s size steer you away. “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” is a stimulating read for readers young and old, however, as it is a bit dense, I’d say it may be a challenge for readers that are below high school reading levels.

To be honest, what first attracted me to the novel was that I heard it was similar to Harry Potter. I’ve discovered that statement does not accurately describe it in the least. “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” isn’t just a Harry Potter book for adults. While both books do carry elements of magic, that is primarily where the similarities end. “Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,” is filled with both the hope of magic returned and a rich history that almost convinces the reader that magic is still around today.

The Raven King’s symbol, a raven in flight.

The novel tells the story of two magicians in three volumes, while one magician, the Raven King, reigns throughout. While the book is primarily about magic and its ‘return’ to England, the novel is also about relationships, be it with servants, wives, friends, or each other. As we watch these relationships unfold and blossom, Susanna Clarke artfully illustrates the intricacies of dealings with magicians. Be it the way that Norrell envies the ease with which Strange works, or the way Strange worries of becoming like Norrell.

One aspect of the novel that helps perpetrate the belief magic really does exist is its extensive footnotes. Though at times I found the the footnotes to be dense as they were rather excessive, I loved how much history they provided the reader. These footnotes provided the reader with a deep set past of England and it’s magic, be it with the Raven King’s stories, or stories of workings with faeries. Many times did I wish that John Uskglass did yet exist and that the ravens seen in London were the still working for their ‘master.’

All in all, despite the novel being rather different from Harry Potter, it does match it in at least this one way. By the end of reading either novels, the reader is left with the hope that, despite what we’ve been told countless times by parents and teachers alike, magic does exist.

The real never-ending story Wednesday, Oct 20 2010 

Everyone has read that book that was so awful they just could not put themselves to finish it. A book so dull, that reading it, just takes all life out of you. For some, the answer is easy: toss the thing into a rubbish bin, and be done with it. Then there are others, who could never damage a book, but yet you can and do, send it to the salvation army. And yet there are those who cannot even bring themselves to do that. For those people, their solution is most difficult. They do actually have to go and struggle with the book, and finish it. And that task alone is daunting.

I am one of those many, who when picking up a book and dislike it, i have to see it through to the end. I can’t stop it midstream, neither can I pick up a new (never before read) book to read at the same time. One book, one session.

For a long time, I thought this inability to finish a book was solely due to dull books. And then I met the exception to the rule.

Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell is an amazing book, and was a great read (my review will come in a different post). I was fully invested into the characters, and I still wish for a sequel, because there are many questions I want answered. Truth be told, all the books I love, end that way for me.

But for some reason, this book took me nearly a year to read. A year. I could actually say two, because I had started it, then stopped, then restarted it. In this time, I didn’t read one new (never before read) book to quench my thirst for reading. For someone who used to read several books a month, this was a new experience to me.

But a little over a month ago, I did finally finish it. What spurred me? What got me through? What took me so long in the first place? At this moment, I am not entirely sure, to be honest. For the latter question, I am honestly baffled. The book was large, but no larger or not much larger than any of the later Harry Potter books. And I could finish those in a day. Was it the language? No, because I’ve finished Dickens as quickly as any other book. And like I said before, I loved the characters. I was busy, but no busier than before. Maybe the Raven King himself had put a spell on me? My truest guess was it had nothing to do with the book. And that I could just have been in a book reading funk.

On the first two questions, as I mull them over, I think what helped is that I decided to ignore my previously mentioned quirk of not being able to read more than one book at once. It was around the time of the Harry Potter movie, and I decided I wanted to reread the book to get myself ready for it. And so I put Strange and Norrell aside and read Half Blood Prince. That helped me the most. The reason being was that it even took me a while to read Half Blood Prince. And that shocked me so much, it made me realize it had absolutely nothing to do with the book.

What also helped me is that I just decided to stop thinking of it as an infeasible task. At that point, I had been thinking I may never be able to finish it. But I decided to stop thinking of it that way. I looked at my book shelf and the two rows of books I had to still read, and that also helped.

Since finishing Strange and Norrell, about three months ago, I’ve read six books (three of which were Jane Austen). Suffice it to say, I think the spell has broken.