I DID IT!!!! I finally finished my big fat book! Clocking in at a whopping 1006 pages of teeny tiny type complete with footnotes is the book Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This book had been on my TBR pile for a while and got pulled out after Hubbin discovered a BBC version of the book. Despite it's length the book was very readable and I am now ready to attempt to ramble about it.
World Building - This book has a very Jane Austinesque vibe when it comes to world building. We get to see a variety of English places (and few other places in Europe) mostly through the eyes of the gentleman class. It is a bit drearier and a bit harsher then true Austin, but the vibe totally comes through. One extra aspect of world building is the realm of fairy. I really very much enjoyed how the author built the world of fairy as being right next door to our world, complete with cross-roads and touch stones. The best parts of fairy where the descriptions of the familiar with a fantastic twist. Ever time I picked up this book I was easily able to slip into the worlds the author created.
Story - So this was an interesting book as far as story goes. I am not 100% sure that there was an actual whole beginning, middle and end story or if it was more of a history with the reader just catching a slice of time. There were bits of story, mostly connected with individual characters, but over all I felt that this was more of an old school history of an alternate place/time. That being said, it was still a book that I could pick up and read and stay interested in so yeah. Maybe it was that there were many many stories with in the framework of the history that kept it interesting...yeah, so not really sure how to describe it, but I liked it.
Character - This may be where the Austin feel really came through in this book. The characters were many and varied and true to themselves. Right when I was about to get tired of reading about a certain character or story line, bam the author switched to somebody else and it was awesome. I particularly liked the Raven King as an overarching presence that was constantly felt but only once actually seen; Childermass who probably actually knew and understood more then any other character; Stephen Black a man who was kind, smart, brave, and searching to belong; Vinculus the vagabond man with all the answers and of course the Gentleman who tied everybody together. The characters may be the best part of this book.
Editing - This was a very very long book and I want to be tempted to say that it could have easily been broken up...but you know what? I'm glad it is one long self contained book. It really gives the vibe of a history in this format. For all it's length, the way it is broken up in parts and chapters makes it very very readable and the fun footnotes that are scattered through out just adds to the overall feel. It was consistent, follow able and readable, editing for the win.
The Author - Ok so I really feel like the author and the way she wrote this book has to be talked about. She started writing it in 1993 and did not actually publish the whole book until 2003, that my friends is dedication. She worked on it in her spare time and had to work with trying to put all her ideas and fragments into a cohesive form. I totally feel her and her writing style 'cause every time I try and write something I feel the same way. I obviously don't have the patience she does, but it makes the book all that better for me that I feel a kinship with her thought process and writing style.
Fairy - I love love love old school English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish/Celtic style fairy land. This book brought the old school ideas of stolen humans, especially children, timelessness, agreements between fairy and human kind, the glamour vs the reality of magic, just everything that I love. I felt like I could go hunt down a fairy road and ride off and explore this whole other world behind the mirrors. I have not read such a great take on the old school fairy in a while and I have to say I loved every second of it and totally want to read more about the Raven King...hint hint lol.
Manners - Ok ok I know I have mentioned the Austin feel of this book 100 times, but here it is again. I am a Jane Austin fan, her ability to mingle peoples everyday lives with wit and story have always made her books a go to for me. When an author can capture that style in a whole new book I am always happy. This book had the feel of manners and little intrigues (along with the big stuff), just instead of marriages it was magic. The combination of the Austin feel with the old school Fairy feel and then turning it into something wholly original is pretty epic.
Overall Impression - I liked this book, it is a book book, it is a book for people who like to READ! This is not a book for the beach, or a quick pick me up, it requires concentration, time, and a love of reading. That being said, it is a wonderful book, I give it 8 out of 9 viles of mad cat lady essence and recommend it to anybody who loves to read, likes Austen, magic, Fairy or just some good writing. Happy Reading Everybody!