Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell definitely reminded me of a novel written in the 18th/19th century. I pictured Jane Austen and Wilkie Collins conspiring over many occasions to come up with The History of Magic as told through the perceptions of Mr Norrell and Mr Strange. The book has fantasy, mythology of fairies, magic in England (both theoretical and practical), as well as war and politics. All of these dripping with that delicious sarcastic and ironic undercurrent we find in and love in Austen and Collins various publications. However, this is not a book to just slip into. There are times I enjoyed reading it and times it was tiring. It took till the end of the book to figure out what direction the author might be going with her characters. All I could figure out was that the main goal was to bring practical magic back into England by why of Mr Norrell or by Mr Strange, beyond that I could hardly form any expectations or theories.
Susanna Clarke has created a detailed world that includes history, other languages and other worlds, much like with Tolkien. Clarke also included footnotes; some absurdly long, to further the enjoyment and knowledge of the reader. The footnotes either explained a theory; tell a story related to the subject matter in the book at that current moment; or finish a history of a reference with in the storyline the author will not have time to include later or that the author wanted us to know something about. Some I read and some I did not. It was a creative writing tool since much of this book is also presented through an academic voice.
Ultimately I think this novel let me down (although I started it with very high expectations). It was long, it meanders, it was academic theoretical magic rather than practical, it was gossipy; there were few “happy endings” and it left me uninspired. However, Clarke has created a novel with a great voice to take you on your journey to bring magic back into England and for that I was glad to have read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.