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In this audiobook review, we explore the enchanting world of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke. If you’re looking for a captivating story full of magic and intrigue, this audiobook is the perfect way to experience it.

Whether you’re a fan of fantasy novels or looking for something new, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is an unforgettable read. The audiobook edition enhances the storytelling experience, making it an even more immersive journey for listeners.

Key Takeaways

  • “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke is an enchanting audiobook that captures the world of magic and intrigue.
  • The audiobook format enhances the storytelling experience, making it an even more immersive journey.
  • This audiobook is perfect for fans of fantasy novels and anyone looking for a captivating and unique reading experience.
  • Overall, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a modern classic with lasting influence and impact in the literary world.
  • If you’re considering the novel versus the audiobook, this review provides a detailed comparison of the two formats.

Introduction to “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”

At the heart of the enchanting novel is the brilliant mind of Susanna Clarke, who created a world imbued with magic and wonder. The narrative is a unique blend of historical fiction and fantasy, weaving a web of intricate plots and intriguing characters. Clarke’s talent lies in crafting vivid imagery and compelling stories that leave readers spellbound. Her work is a testament to the power of the written word to transport listeners to new worlds.

The magic in “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is unlike anything seen before. It is not just a tool for the characters but an integral part of the storytelling itself. Clarke’s use of literary devices such as footnotes, alternative histories, and elaborate world-building adds depth and sophistication to the narrative.

Susanna Clarke is an accomplished author with a unique voice and a passion for storytelling. Born in 1959 in Nottingham, England, Clarke studied at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She worked in publishing and taught in London and Turin before turning to writing full-time. Her debut novel “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” was published in 2004 and won several awards, including the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel. The book has been translated into over twenty languages and adapted into a television series.

Plot Overview

The intricate plot of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” follows the journey of two highly distinct magicians in a world where magic has been dormant for over 300 years. Mr Norrell, a reclusive bookworm, and Jonathan Strange, a charismatic and impulsive young man, team up to restore magic to its former glory. The story starts with Mr Norrell’s attempts to prove to an assembly of politicians that magic is a reputable profession and continues with Jonathan Strange’s introduction and their subsequent collaboration.

The book follows both characters as they attempt to learn and expand their magic abilities. Mr Norrell, who is primarily interested in consolidating his reputation as the only real magician in the world, takes on Jonathan as his protégé, but they later become rivals. A significant part of the storyline revolves around Jonathan’s natural talent and his eagerness to explore the possibilities of the magical realm. Their parting comes about because of Mr Norrell’s desire to protect the colonial interests of England from enchantment and spells.

The latter half of the book explores Jonathan’s journey with the military and his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars. Mr Norrell, on the other hand, goes to great lengths to keep all other English magicians out of the picture. An enthralling finale brings the two magicians back together in an unexpected way.

The plot summary of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” reveals how the story unfolds, taking readers on a magical journey full of twists and turns. The narrative is intricately woven, and the magic system is well-defined, with many surprises and unique elements.

Character Analysis

One of the strengths of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” lies in its complex and multifaceted characters. Main protagonists Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell are not easily defined, and their motivations and personalities evolve throughout the story, making for a compelling character study.

Jonathan Strange is introduced as an impulsive and ambitious young man, brimming with talent but lacking disciplined training. As he delves deeper into the world of magic, his character undergoes significant changes, as he grapples with newfound power, sacrifice, and the consequences of his actions.

On the other hand, Mr Norrell starts as a reclusive and enigmatic figure, obsessed with resurrecting English magic. His motivations and methods are often questionable, leading to both admiration and suspicion from those around him. Through various plot twists and revelations, we gain a deeper glimpse into his psyche, adding complexity and depth to his character.

Other supporting characters, such as Arabella Strange, Stephen Black, and John Childermass, also warrant attention and add layers to the narrative. Clarke creates a world of flawed but fascinating characters, each with their own unique perspectives and stories.

Character Analysis

Jonathan Strange vs Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell
Impulsive Reserved
Ambitious Obsessive
Talent without discipline Discipline without talent
Adventurous Calculating

The contrasting personalities of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell create a dynamic tension that propels the narrative forward. Strange is the fiery protagonist, taking risks and seeking adventure, while Norrell is the calculating antagonist, carefully plotting his next move. Together, they make for a fascinating character study that defies simple categorization.

Setting and Atmosphere

One of the most captivating aspects of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is the immersive world-building. Author Susanna Clarke masterfully creates a magical atmosphere that permeates every page, making the story a truly unique reading experience.

The novel is set in an alternate version of early 19th-century England, where magic has long been dormant. As Mr Norrell reveals his abilities as a practical magician and Jonathan Strange becomes his pupil, the world begins to change.

The historical context is richly imagined, with detailed descriptions of society, politics, and culture. But what truly sets this novel apart is the magical atmosphere that infuses it. From the otherworldly realm of the Faerie to the haunting figure of the Raven King, there is a sense of wonder and mystery that draws the reader in.

Narration and Audiobook Performance

The audiobook edition of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” elevates the storytelling experience with its exceptional narration quality and captivating voice acting. The narrator, Simon Prebble, captures the essence of the characters and their distinct personalities, bringing them to life in a way that enhances the overall listening experience. His smooth and engaging tone effortlessly draws listeners into the magical world of the novel, making it difficult to stop listening.

Prebble’s voice acting is particularly impressive, imbuing each character with subtleties and nuances that add depth and dimension to their portrayal. His delivery of the dialogue is natural and effortless, capturing the emotional range of the characters and weaving it seamlessly into the narrative.

In addition to the narration quality and voice acting, the audiobook edition also includes additional elements that contribute to the overall performance. The sound effects and music cues used throughout the recording add to the magical atmosphere of the novel, immersing listeners in the world of spells, faeries, and other mystical beings.

Overall, the audiobook edition of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a remarkable performance that adds a new dimension to the storytelling experience. Whether you’re a fan of audiobooks or new to the format, this narrated edition is a must-listen.

Pros and Cons of the Audiobook Format

The audiobook format offers various advantages, such as convenience and multitasking, making it a popular choice for many readers.

One of the main benefits of the audiobook format is that it allows listeners to enjoy a book while doing other activities, such as exercising, commuting, or doing household chores. This makes it a convenient option for individuals with busy schedules who cannot devote time solely to reading.

Moreover, audiobooks often feature talented voice actors who bring the story to life, enhancing the overall listening experience. In the case of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,” the audiobook narration by Simon Prebble has received critical acclaim for his engaging performance.

However, the audiobook format also has some potential drawbacks that some listeners may encounter. One of the main concerns is that it may be difficult to keep track of the plot and characters, especially in complex novels such as “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.”

Additionally, the audiobook format may not be suitable for individuals who prefer a more immersive and tactile reading experience. The lack of physical pages and the inability to flip back and forth may hinder some readers’ engagement with the text.

Overall, the audiobook format has its advantages and disadvantages, and the decision to choose it over the printed version ultimately depends on personal preferences and circumstances.

Comparison with the Print Version

For avid readers, the debate of book versus audiobook format is familiar territory. Those who prefer the printed version might argue that reading allows for a more immersive experience, as it allows them to imagine the characters and settings without external influence. On the other hand, audiobook enthusiasts might point out that narrated versions can offer a unique perspective, bringing the story to life with different interpretations by voice actors.

In the case of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,” both formats make for an enjoyable experience, but with distinct differences. While the print version allows readers to pause and reflect on particular passages or even jot down notes, the audiobook version lures the listener into the rich world of magic and provides a different sensory experience.

For readers who struggle to find the time for traditional reading, audiobooks can be the perfect solution, as they offer a hands-free way to enjoy literature while engaging in another activity. However, for others, the act of holding a book and turning the pages serves as an essential part of the reading experience.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and the most comfortable way of enjoying this enchanting story. Whether you prefer printed or narrated versions, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a novel that is sure to captivate its audience and make for a memorable reading experience.

Reception and Critic Reviews

Since its publication in 2004, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” has been met with widespread critical acclaim. The novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, among other honors.

Many critics praised Susanna Clarke’s inventive approach to the genre of historical fantasy. Lev Grossman from Time magazine called it “an instant classic” and a “towering and intrepidly panoramic novel.” Claire Harman from The Telegraph praised the book’s “sprawling imaginative reach” and “playful scholarship.”

The novel has also received positive reviews from readers. On Goodreads, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” has an average rating of 3.82 out of 5 stars, with over 219,000 ratings and 17,500 reviews.

While the vast majority of readers and critics were pleased with the novel, some expressed disappointment with the pacing or the ending. However, these criticisms were relatively minor in comparison to the overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Impact and Legacy of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”

The impact of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” on the literary world cannot be overstated. Susanna Clarke’s novel, with its intricate world-building, magical atmosphere, and complex characters, has influenced numerous works of fantasy that followed in its wake.

The book’s seamless blending of history and fantasy has made it a modern classic that appeals to readers of all ages. Its themes of power, ambition, and the consequences of tampering with the unknown have resonated with audiences, making it a timeless tale of magic and intrigue.

Genre Impact

Since its publication in 2004, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” has had a profound impact on the fantasy genre. The novel’s unique blend of history and magic, along with its intricate world-building, has inspired a new wave of authors to experiment with similar themes and ideas. Its influence can be seen in popular titles such as “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern and “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman, both of which owe a debt to Clarke’s masterpiece.

Literary Influence

Author Work Influence
Leigh Bardugo Shadow and Bone The use of “grisha,” similar to Clarke’s use of “magician”
China Miéville The City & the City The blending of multiple genres, similar to Clarke’s blending of history, fantasy, and literature
Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book The use of mythology and the supernatural, similar to Clarke’s use of English folklore

As illustrated by the table above, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” has influenced numerous authors in the literary world. Its impact can be seen in the use of similar themes, concepts, and devices, particularly in the fantasy and speculative fiction genres.


Overall, the audiobook edition of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke is a captivating and enchanting listening experience. The narration quality and voice acting brings the story to life, making it a fantastic option for those who enjoy audio storytelling. The intricate plot, compelling characters, and magical atmosphere make it a modern classic that is sure to delight fantasy fans.

However, like with any audiobook, there are potential drawbacks such as the inability to easily skim or reread certain passages. Additionally, some listeners may prefer the printed version for a more immersive reading experience.

Regardless, the audiobook format is a fantastic way to experience this novel and we highly recommend it to all listeners. Whether you’re a fan of fantasy or just looking to try something new, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a must-read (or must-listen) for all book lovers.

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