Have you seen or heard the trailers on BBC for the new series, "The Friends of English Magic"? Having read the book it's based on, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, written by Susanna Clark, I can't wait to see how the realms of 'English Magic' are brought to life in this exciting new fantasy series which starts on Sunday 17th May at 9pm on BBC One.
Centuries ago, when magic still existed in England, the greatest magician of all was the Raven King, a human child brought up by fairies. But in the early nineteenth century, he is barely more than a legend, and England, with its mad King and its dashing poets, no longer believes in practical magic.
Now, in 1806, rumours begin to spread of the reclusive Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey, and when he and his dazzling displays of magic appear in London, news quickly spreads of the return of magic to England. Persuaded that he must help the government in the war against Napoleon, Mr Norrell is challenged by another brilliant young magician, Jonathan Strange. Together they entrance the country with their feats of magic but their partnership soon turns to rivalry. Mr Norrell has never conquered his lifelong habits of secrecy, while Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous magic.
Susanna Clarke lives in Cambridge with her partner, the novelist and reviewer Colin Greenland. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was first published in 2004 in more than thirty countries and shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Authors Club First Novel Award. It won British Book Awards Newcomer of the Year, the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award in 2005. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, a collection of short stories, some set in the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, was published by Bloomsbury in 2006.
This is a curious book, written as if it were a real history with more footnotes than I have ever seen in a novel! The cast of characters are larger than life but all recognisable and quite transferable into modern life. I was particularly fond of Mr Segundus and Mr Honeywell who have a key role in the novel. Likewise the shallow socialites Mr Lascelles and Mr Drawlight are rather endearing. I could go on, but you should read it yourself, there are many characters, as many plots and sub-plots. The magical experiences are described in detail, I am not usually one for detailed descriptions, preferring action and dialogue, but somehow the pictures that are created are delightful and there is plenty of action to keep my attention.
Who is it for?
Anyone who enjoys loosely historical novels (there are some real events woven through the text), lovers of well-written fantasy and magic. Anyone who is looking for something a little different.
Read the book, watch the series or do both, it will be a fantastical adventure that you won't want to miss. I'm hoping that the series will live up to the pictures the author has painted in my head and that Cuba Pictures and Feel Films will not edit out too much of the detail of the plot, as often happens. We shall just have to wait and see!
Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
New Edition with preface by Susanna Clarke 23rd April, 2015
Published by Bloomsbury