adult Books Fantasy Fiction

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – Review

Genre: Fantasy
Published: September 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 1006
My Rating: 🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋/5

“A piece of writing is like a piece of magic. You create something out of nothing.” 

Susanna Clarke

In the early 19th century, it has been many years since magic has been practiced in England. Now magicians are gentlemen who only write and read about magic and no longer practice it themselves. Except for a reclusive Mr Norrell, who is the only known practical magician left in England. When he is sought out by two theoretical magicians to answer the question of why there was no more magic done in England, a series of interesting events unfold. When a new, charming and young magician Jonathan Strange emerges, Mr Norrell is challenged and his ways and beliefs are put to the test. Norrell decides to take Strange under his wing as an apprentice, but they have differing ideas of how magic should be practiced and this threatens their partnership with potentially unpleasant consequences. All the while discovering that the history and practice of magic is much more complex than it seems.

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange.

Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never could.” 

 Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

I was extremely excited when I was invited to host a JSMN read along with some amazing book bloggers/bookstagrammers. This was my very first read along and of course first time hosting and it was such a fun experience.

I’m not going to lie, when saw the size of the book, I was terrified! This was the longest book I have ever read (not counting my medical textbooks). But the thought of reading it along with others made it feel a lot less daunting. We read at a pretty relaxed pace and it took place over 4 weeks, with weekly book discussions. This was honestly like nothing I have ever read before and it surpassed my expectations. I didn’t expect to fall in love with these characters the way I did. I felt everything from shock and awe to sadness and relief. With moments of unexpected humour and sarcasm.

Although it starts slowly, the pace picks up really quickly after we meet Jonathan Strange. The descriptive writing style allows you to develop a clear picture while you are reading. 

I loved the development of the characters and how you are drawn into their lives. You learn that those characters you meet early on the book are not what they may seem. Initially it is difficult to resist the charms of Jonathan Strange in comparison to the reclusive, yet arrogant Norrell. But you soon realize that his adventurous ways and lack of constraint could be to his detriment leading to unpleasant consequences.

I can’t say whether I am a 100% a Strangite or a Norrellite as I think they each have their own strengths and flaws. The footnotes, although extensive at times, adds an extra touch of originality. Even though I am not someone who reads a lot of fantasy, this book has taken me on a journey like no other. As I read the last words and finished the book, I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. From the very first page up until the last, it truly was unforgettable.

Disclaimer: I was sent this free copy for review by Jonathan Ball Publishers. This does not influence my review or rating in any way. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

adult Books Fantasy

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – Review

Genre: Fantasy
Published: September 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 245
My Rating: 🦋🦋🦋🦋/5

“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”

Susanna Clarke, Piranesi

Piranesi lives alone in the House. We do not know when he arrived or for how long he has lived there.It is a labyrinth with never ending corridors, infinite halls and so much explore. Where there is an abundance of statues and an ocean contained within its walls. The Other, Piranesi’s only friend and only other person alive that he is aware of, comes to visit every Tuesday and Friday. Suddenly, writing starts to appear on pavements within the house. Someone else is in the house, but is this person a friend or dangerous like The Other says? And what do they want?

“It is my belief that the World (or, if you will, the House, since the two are for all practical purposes identical) wishes an Inhabitant for Itself to be a witness to its Beauty and the recipient of its Mercies.”

Piranesi is one of those books I started reading, not knowing what to expect. Even the blurb can be a bit confusing at first, but once you get into it you won’t want to put it down. Written in the form of journal entries, it starts off slowly, helping to set the scene and allowing the reader to form images in their minds of The House.

Something I could relate to was the fact that Piranesi is content with being alone most of the time, but he does enjoy it when his friend The Other comes to visit for a short period of time a couple of times a week. I feel like this may resonate with most introverts. Piranesi is content in the House, it provides what he needs to survive. He is able to fish for food and burn dried seaweed for warmth.

Piranesi is patient and more than willing to help his friend and assist with his requests. He also doesn’t need much to make him happy and is always grateful when his friend brings him small gifts. One thing you will notice about Piranesi is his trusting and almost childlike nature. His friend The Other is not as likable, he is condescending and clearly uses Piranesi for his own gain.

I did have some questions at the end, but it leaves you wanting more. I don’t feel that it took anything away from the book itself. I also have a feeling that this is what Clarke wanted to achieve. The book isn’t long and could probably be finished in one sitting. It has a slow build initially and then all of a sudden everything starts coming together. This was such an amazing and unique reading experience. The story is completely captivating. Filled with magic and wonder, I would recommend this book not just to lovers of fantasy, but to anyone and everyone.

Disclaimer: I was sent this free copy for review by Jonathan Ball Publishers. This does not influence my review or rating in any way. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

Check out what these bloggers thought about Piranesi:

Piranesi (2020) – Susanna Clarke – for the love of MEG