Saturday, February 2, 2008

Bellairsian Vibes from Strange and Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Daphne shared her thoughts on Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and the Bellairsian vibe she received:

It's the tale of two rival magicians, set upon 'bringing proper English magic back to England' in the 1800s. It's a mix of historical realism and fantasy, which I liked. Magic's fallen out of use, people have forgotten it, and it's only studied theoretically. Until one magician (a person who studies magic as a profession) figures out the trick to doing real magic again, and that's when the doors open and magic starts to flow back into England (sort of). He takes a student, who soon surpasses him, and then everything starts to happen. I really enjoyed this depiction of very proper English gentlemen performing all sorts of magics with varying degrees of surprise at their successes (and failures).

The whole book reminded me of one of my favorite young adult authors, John Bellairs. It was like an adult version of one of his books (sort of). The John Bellairs books (usually illustrated by Edward Gorey, there's a hint about the kind of books he wrote) usually had a very creepy somewhat supernatural story line -- very gothic, but also funny and extremely engaging. Jonathan Strange isn't exactly creepy or supernatural, but it is sort of gothic, and I always enjoy it when 'real' people are faced with things only previously told about in tales. Real darkness, real evil, and tragedy occur. Characters are complex and you are left to your own devices to figure out what you think about them (which I like).

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