Vydáno: 2005 (2004)
Any book touted as the ‘adult Harry Potter’ runs the risk of attracting critical parries from swords of the double-edged variety. If this wasn’t enough, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell--the debut novel from Susanna Clarke--also invites comparisons with Jane Austen. Set in the early nineteenth-century, the action moves from genteel drawing rooms—albeit where a mischievous Faerie king sips tea with the wife of a very human government minister, to the bloody battleground of Waterloo, where giant hands of earth drag men to their doom. The juxtaposition of perfectly realised magical worlds and the everyday one with which JK Rowling and Philip Pullman so successfully captured our imaginations and the social comedy of Austen and Thackeray can easily be recognised. But less easy to pastiche is the ability of these writers to induce sheer narrative pleasure, and it is Clarke’s great achievement that she succeeds with this hugely enjoyable read. Gilbert Norrell is determined to single-handedly rehabilitate his sanitised and patriotic version of English magic, which has suffered a post-Enlightenment neglect after a richly dark history. He ruthlessly secures his place as England’s only magician in two marvellously drawn feats. First, he brings the statutes of York Cathedral to life and then, to facilitate his entry into London society, he brings a young bride-to-be back from the dead--a feat with terrible consequences. However, another more naturally gifted magician—Jonathan Strange—emerges to become his pupil and later his rival. Strange becomes increasingly obsessed with the Raven King—the medieval lord-magician of the North of England and pursues his desire to recruit a fairy servant to the edge of madness. Whilst the differing characters of Norrell and Strange give the book a central human conflict, it is the tension between the dual natures of civilised and wilder magic that lends it a metaphysical texture that shades the narrative with wonderful and troubling descriptions of ships made of rain, paths between mirrors and faerie roads leading out of England to a bleak yet dazzling realm. Fortunately, the precision of her storytelling never reigns in Clarke’s prodigious imagination. Clarke’s broad canvas of characters—including Wellington, Napoleon and Bryon, locations and tones are masterfully realised. However, sometimes her own enchantment with them leads her to drop her pace, although even at almost 800 pages, this is a book to which you’ll muster up little resistance. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the perfect novel to take up residence in as the nights get longer.