Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Portia Rosenberg, Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell follows the careers of the two first English magicians in four hundred years. Set in the early years of the 19th century, it's a sort of cross between a mock biography - with footnotes and dates - and a typical 18th century sensation novel. Which obviously gives it the opportunity for a kind of irony over 19th century perspectives on things like race and Anglocentrism and feminism.

The novel is long - over 1000 pages - and, I'll be honest, there doesn't really seem to be any narrative drive to the plot, it's just a series of events strung one after the other. There's no sense that it's building up to anything. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it adds to the feel of biography. I was quite happy meandering through the book, soaking up the atmosphere of bookishness (for the magicians must find all their magic in books) and enjoying the inventive little tales about magic and the Raven King that found their way in.

I was, I will admit, a little disappointed by the end, which fell a bit flat and somehow seemed inadequate for the struggles of the rest of the novel. But, with this book at least, it's all about the journey and not the destination.