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05 February 2010
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
I finally got my hands on a copy of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. [From now on, and for the sake of simplicity, I will be referring to it as Jonathon Strange.] I have been hearing so many things about it, and it seemed up my alley. When I first went looking for it, the novel was only in hard cover - a very beautiful looking volume, but $50 is too expensive for one book when I can buy 3-4 others for the same amount at Galaxy. I received some Galaxy gift vouchers for my birthday (The secret is finally out - I have an obsession! Everyone who got me a book-related present got major brownie points. First prize was a tie between Ms B, Ms A and Ms R. - a book pillow and 2 galaxy vouchers), and with the last one, I wanted to get a book I had on my wish list that I knew I wouldn't buy with my fortnightly forays. Charles de Lint's Mystery of Grace doesn’t come out for another month in paperback, so I consulted my wish list and decided to see if Jonathan Strange was more affordable. The price had come down considerably - $35 for the hardcover, and $25 for the paperbacks - so I decided to take the plunge. I bought the Bloomsbury Phantastics version because it is just so god damn pretty! (I also plan to go and buy the other two in the Phantastics print - Poe and Gaiman! - also nice and pretty!) It has a black and white cover, and the edges of the book are black - like the older books you find with gilt edges. Although you still find bibles etc with the gilt edges, you are unlikely to see a $15 paperback with them. I love books - I love the feel of paper, the smell of the ink and paper, the design, the little frills, the fonts used, reading the inscriptions - and best of all, diving in and getting lost in the words. I have to say, design-wise, this book scores well on all fronts. I've only read about 30 pages, but I am liking it so far. It gives me the impression of the time it is set 1700's (give or take - I forget LOL) - both with the writing style and the illustrations. They aren't plates, but they give that feel. Clarke also uses archaic words and phrases - scattering them through the text. Words like "chuse" and the like. Okay, I have to admit, the first time I read Jane Austen, I was young and naive. She also used the archaic words, and I, at the age of 12, thought that she couldn't spell and that she had a really shoddy editor! Today when I think about that I blush in shame (except I don’t blush, but the !idiot! feeling is still the same!) because it was so naive. Anyway, so far I noticed a lot of similarity in the styles of Austen and Clarke. Its the tone, the language and the genteel nature of the characters. I wont comment on that similarity however, because so far that is what it feels like she was aiming for. I think I will probably take some time to read this book, not because of its size (although it could be used for a door-stopper) but because I get my trashy paperbacks which are so much more immediate. I tend to read a number of books at one time, and whilst I am reading my trashy paperbacks, I will also be reading Jonathon Strange. I'll let you know how I go. I am already intrigued by the concept of the Raven King! But you know how obsessed I get with ravens and crows... Fascinating creatures in mythology and folklore!