Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

Grade: To Own

WOW, what a book. Massive, slow, and grand to start with, and then how eerie and wild and tense it becomes!
VERY 19th century. Spelling, style, plot, characters, everything. I had to check to make sure that it really was written in 2004.
It was so melancholy and tragic, so hopeful and romantic, dry and boring, creepy and alluring, ivigorating and inspiring all at the same time.

Here are a few little parts I liked. Not my favourite parts, or the best parts, but how could I choose those?

"Often the French would look up from whatever they were doing and see Major Grant on horseback, observing them from atop a far-off hill. He would peer at them through his telescope and then make notes about them in his little notebook. It made them most uncomfortable." (pg. 318)

Pg. 323: Neopolitans are from Naples, apparently. This was new to me, and I thought it rather amusing.

Pg. 492: "On the third day she died." So abrupt, I just sat staring at it for a minute. And then it went right into Volume III--and what a volume that was!

"He began to have the strangest feeling...the feeling that something was coming to an end and that all his choices had now been made. He had taken a road in his youth, but the road did not lead where he had supposed; he was going homne, but home had become something monstrous. In the half-dark, standing by the black bed, he remembered why he had always feared the darkenss as a child." (pg. 707-8)

Strange's madness: so eerie!
"After a few minutes he looked out of the window and into the Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo. People were walking up and down. The backs of their heads were hollowed out; their faces were nothing but thin masks at the front. Within each hollow a candle was burning. This was so plain to him now, that he wondered he had never noticed it before. He imagined what would happen if he went down into the street and blew some of the candles out. It made him laugh to think of it. He laughed so much that he could no longer stand. His laguhter echoed round and round the house. Some small remaining shred of reason warned him that he ought not to let the landlord and his family know what he was doing so he went to bed and muffled the sound of his laughter in the pillows, kicking his legs from time to time with the sheer hilarity of the idea."
And then...
"All seemed well until the waiter approached his table and put the cup of coffee down upon it. Strange looked up and saw a glint in the man's eye like a tiny candle-flame. He found he could no longer recall whether people had candles in their heads or not."

"[Strange] took hold of the doctor's arm and whispered, 'May I ask you something?'
Dr. Greysteel nodded.
'Are you not afraid that it will go out?'
'What will go out?' asked Dr Greysteel.
'The candle.' Strange gestured to Dr Greysteel's forehead. 'The candle inside your head.'" (pg. 636)

And I loved the very last page. And all the parts about Arabella and Mr. Strange, especially after she died. And the prophecy was wonderful, rather Tolkien-esque, but stranger.
Oh, enough ranting now. I loved it. That's enough.

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