Reviews Comments: Not for Everyone

Not for Everyone
I'm not sure what caused me to like this book so much in the first place, but I did. Maybe I was drawn in by the portrayal of magicians as fusty old historians. I stayed for the dry humor and the wonderful depiction of fairies (aka, the original one).

However, I can easily see the complaints that the other reviews pointed out in the book. It's written in a sort of pseudo-period style, although it's nowhere near as difficult to read as actual works from the age. It's often difficult to see where the plot is going, and several of the threads drag on for perhaps longer than they should have. But still I found the book interesting, even through the first 300 pages that everyone says are a bore.

The last third of the book is very good, but it's really up to you as a reader to figure out if you can get there. It will require a long trek through 600 or so pages of what you might not find terribly interesting. I found the prospect of theoretical magicians rather intriguing in and of itself, which was enough to propel me through the first half of the book on its own. But sprinklings of actual magic do appear, and they are all entertaining and become more and more eerie as the book progresses. And by that point I had already been fascinated by the gentleman with the thistle-down hair and his wonderful faerie-ness.

As to claims that the book isn't funny... I just don't understand them. There were more than a handful of passages where I laughed out loud while I was reading. It's certainly a very dry humor, but it is there. There were even things that were blatantly silly (such as Mr Strange's belief that Venice was full of pineapples).

All in all, I enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. But I think it would be very understandable if someone else did not.


Having finally finished reading the book, I think this is the review that most closely corresponds with my opinion.

Yes, it is an incredibly slow boiler, and if you are come into the book expecting anything light or action orientated, you'll be sorely disappointed. But if you are like me (and the reviewer), you'll be amused by the parodies of academics, intrigued by the passionate examinations of history, and kept involved by the gradual personal developments, long enough to wait for the moment in the book when the shit to finally hit the fan (which happens within the last third). Just knowing that this is leading to something, and very slowly pushing the pieces into place, was enough to keep me interested.

It's an investment, but it is worth it in the long run.
comment #19189 maninahat 29th Apr 13
This is also my opinion on the book. I don't mind the diversions, nor the anecdotes and even entire tales within the footnotes. They all add to the sense I got, from reading it more than once, that there's a full, rich history and mythology in Norrell's and Strange's England, and that these gentlemen's stories, as well as those of Stephen, Lady Pole and others, are but the tip of the iceberg. Reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, I feel immersed within a fictional universe all its own.

And yes, I also agree that it's the sort of novel that requires a good deal of patience and tolerance for leisurely pacing. It's an acquired taste, in the way that Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance and Foucault's Pendulum are.
comment #19197 AliceMacher 29th Apr 13

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