I finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell 10 days ago. I loved the book. LOVED it. And this last volume read the fastest to me. I just couldn’t put it down. However, my thoughts are bound to be very incoherent, because it is hard to separate my general thoughts on the book from this last volume. And overall, Susanna Clarke managed to accomplish so much that I feel as if I can’t even begin to cover what I enjoyed about this book.
First, let me say that I was amazed about how significant all the introduced characters and details turned out to be. The last volume of this book made me feel more and more that I should just start right over at the beginning and find out more now that I know the general story. For so much of the book the general plot is quite unclear, except that we know that there’s a prophesy that will probably play some role or other. There’s much meandering, combined with the style of writing that reminds me so much of Jane Austen, but with more bluntness intermixed.. I can see why this book might not be for everyone. I also understand why the last volume compelled me most to keep on reading, because this is where the plot falls into place. But that is not to say that I liked this volume best, per se, or that I did not yet love the book back in the other volumes. It’s more that, having read part III, I appreciate the meandering, and the side stories, and the overall style of the book even more.
I’m sorry, I’m sitting here pulling a complete blank on what to say and where to begin.
From the very first, I loved how footnotes were incorporated into the story. How they might not be related to the overall plot at all times, but contain back story, and side story (as Jenny called it), and just filled in so many blanks in a world where fantasy meets nineteenth century England, that the world just became more real and whole from the get go.
I like how both the marginality of women and people from other races were written into the story and discussed in such an ingenious manner.
There’s Jonathan Strange and Mr (apparently Gilbert, how had I not picked up on that until this last volume?) Norrell, who are both well-rounded characters that left me alternately sympathetic and annoyed. Mostly, Norrell annoyed me to no end and I felt more for Jonathan, but then, in the end, I couldn’t help but pity Norrell too, with his lifelong devotion to magic and his insecurities and loneliness.
But all the side characters (well, as far as you can actually call them side characters) are so well written en significant too. I loved Childermass. And Stephen (I wonder if he ever had a chance at love with the shopkeeper lady?). And Lady Pole. And oh, Arabella.
I liked how the theme of madness and magic became more prominent throughout this third volume. I love how there’s no definite answer to the question if mad people can see faerie’s or if it’s really the fact that they’re in the proximity of faerie’s that makes that they are perceived as mad.
There’s just simply so much ambiguity to this story. The whole ambivalent ending, although it was a good ending, it just made me want more. How could you not want more of such a great story?
Okay, so I’m sorry, I think I just proved that I really can’t say anything coherent about this story. Except that I loved it. Perhaps once I have reread it, someday, I will be able to write a proper post on this book. I feel like saying this is “a story as any story should be”. But really, what does that signify apart from repeating that I loved it?
What did you think? Did you enjoy reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell? Who was your favourite character? What was your favourite volume, or twist? What were things you appreciated and what did you not like so much?
[For the sign-up post, see here. This post also includes a list of tentative participants and a reading schedule. For the discussion post about part I, see here. The post on part II is here. You are welcome to join in on the discussion of all parts today, or later when you’ve finished it. Have you posted your thoughts on part III, or on the whole book? Leave me a comment with the link and I will link up to your thoughts]