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 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.