Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Unlike Scot, I love novels.  In fact, one of the challenges of my life is that, as a blogger and non-fiction writer, I am plied with non-fiction books that publishers and authors wish me to read, endorse, and review.  While that is a great honor, and I’m usually happy to oblige, I much prefer to read fiction, and how I wish that I were sent novels to review.

So last January, feeling flush with a little Christmas cash, I ordered a few novels from Amazon.  I picked them by surveying several “best novels of the new millennium” lists and chose the books that seemed to come up with regularity, and the first I dove into was Susanna Clark’s masterpiece, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.  Half-a-year and 845 pages later, I finished it last night.

It is said that what differentiates good from great in a fantasy or science fiction novel is the author’s ability to create a world that is wholly believable and self-contained.  This, for instance, is the brilliance of JRR Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings.  (CS Lewis who, like the Beatles, is overrated, did an admirable job of the same in Narnia.)

[Read more…]