4* (out of 5*)
I first heard of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell when I was prepping advance copies of the book at the publisher’s and set off the smoke alarm with the wax seal we used on the wrappers. I tried to read it back then but could not get past the first few pages because I got distracted by the footnotes.
However, JS & Mr. N. has been on my mind ever since and a few weeks ago I found the audiobook. I love audiobooks. They can really help to make books more accessible to someone like me who has a short attention span for books that contain a lot of detail.
Once I got used to the style of narration and the detailed description, I enjoyed the book very much with its quirky characters and its powerful descriptions of how magic returns to England during the Napoleonic wars, and with its dark take on faeries (no Tinkerbells in this story), and the subdued humor that could easily be at home in a Dickensian story. In fact, the descriptions seemed to get better and better further on in the book – like when one of the characters shoots another in a forest and the trees and wildlife transform the corps into part of the woodland. Genius!
Drawbacks – other than the length and the incessant details? Well, I will not pick Yorkshire for a walking holiday anytime soon.
I gave it 4 stars because it was quite hard work at times (and that was a bit off-putting for me) but really I only give 5 stars to books that have a serious impact on me. So, 4 stars in my book makes it an excellent read.