For the first time in a LONG time, I’ve been reading a work of modern literature. I usually don’t like them.
But Susanna Clarke changed my mind.
Now, admittedly, this book IS over a decade old. But, to me, that’s pretty modern. And yet, with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, you’d never know it. The writing is seamless, perfect in every way. The book is a masterpiece.
It is, however, over 1,000 pages long — and I’m only on page 200. So I’ve got a-ways to go. But I don’t mind! I’m a slow reader, though, so it’ll probably take me a while.
I love fantasy; and I love classy writing. Therefore, I love this book. It’s got just the right amount of darkness and eeriness; and I love that, too!
Here’s what the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said about it.
“While Jonathan Strange is every bit as whimsical and playful as the Harry Potter books, it is also grave and upsetting, the very opposite of comforting children’s entertainment . . . Clarke has delivered a book of universal truths and unexpectedly heartbreaking acuity.”
Take, for example, the gentleman with the thistle-down hair. When he comes to bring Miss Wintertowne back to life, he makes a deal with Mr. Norrell.
“Grant me half the lady’s life and the deal is done.”
“Half her life?” echoed Mr. Norrell.
“Half,” said the gentleman with the thistle-down hair.
“But what would her friends say if they learnt I had bargained away half her life?” asked Mr. Norrell.
“Oh! They will never know anything of it. You may rely upon me for that,” said the gentleman. “Besides, she has no life now. Half a life is better than none.”
“How long is a life?” Mr. Norrell asked.
The gentleman with the thistle-down hair spread his hands in a gesture of the utmost candour. “How long would you like?”
Mr. Norrell considered. “Let us suppose she had lived until she was ninety-four . . . If you were to bestow upon her another seventy-five years, then I see no reason why you should not have half of it.”
“Seventy-five years then,” agreed the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, “exactly half of which belongs to me.”
Mr. Norrell regarded him nervously. “Is there anything more we must do?” he asked. “Shall we sign something?”
“No, but I should like to take something of the lady’s to signify my claim upon her . . . It ought to be something . . . Ah! I know!”
And then, a short while later, after the young lady has been revived:
Miss Wintertowne . . . rose and smiled at Drawlight . . . And she held out both her hands to him, and he took them.
“Madam?” he said. He gave a short, embarrassed laugh (which was odd enough in itself — Drawlight was not easily embarrassed). He did not let go of her hands but looked around the room as if in search of someone to help him out of a difficulty. Then he lifted one of her own hands and showed it to her. She did not appear in any way alarmed by what she saw, but she did look surprised; she raised the hand so that her mother could see it.
The little finger of her left hand was gone.
Ah! What a strange gentleman — that fairy with the thistle-down hair! Equally entertaining and sinister is his meeting with the servant Stephen Black, and the subsequent extension of an invitation to the gentleman’s strange ball at Lost-hope House . . . but I’ll wrap it up for now.
The illustrations in the book, by the way, were created by Portia Rosenberg. A very talented woman, that.
As is the lovely Susanna Clarke! Thank you for a wonderful treat, Miss Clarke. I look forward to reading the rest of your masterpiece.