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If you’re looking for a magical and enchanting listening experience, look no further than “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke. This audiobook review will take an in-depth look at this mesmerizing novel and its performance as an audiobook.

Written by Susanna Clarke, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a fantasy novel set in nineteenth-century England. The story follows two magicians who revive the practice of magic in England and embark on a journey filled with political intrigue and unexplained occurrences.

In this audiobook review, we will explore the author’s background, plot summary, writing style, themes, and pacing of the audiobook. We will also provide a comparison between the audiobook and the book version and offer a final verdict on whether “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is worth your listening time.

Key Takeaways

  • “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke is a captivating and magical audiobook experience.
  • The story follows two magicians who revive the practice of magic in nineteenth-century England.
  • In this review, we will explore the author’s background, plot summary, writing style, themes, and pacing of the audiobook.
  • We will also provide a comparison between the audiobook and the book version and offer a final verdict on whether “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is worth your listening time.
  • If you’re a fan of fantasy novels or looking for a unique listening experience, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a great choice.

About the Author – Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke is an English author known for her historical fantasy novels. She was born in Nottingham in 1959 and studied at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Prior to becoming a writer, Clarke worked as a cook, cleaner, and teacher. She began writing short stories in the late 1990s while working on her first novel, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.”

Clarke’s debut novel was published in 2004 and became an instant bestseller, winning several awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. The novel has since been adapted into a television series and an audiobook. It is widely regarded as one of the most significant works of modern British fiction.

Clarke has also written several short stories, including “The Ladies of Grace Adieu,” a collection of short stories set in the same universe as “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.” Her most recent novel, “Piranesi,” was published in 2020.

Story Overview – “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”

In this section, we delve into the plot of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”, detailing the novel’s primary themes and key elements. Set in the early 19th century, the book is a masterful depiction of two English magicians who discover their magical abilities and the consequential unfolding of events.

The story follows Mr Norrell, a practical yet solitary magician, who sets out to prove the existence of magic through his work. However, his methods and beliefs are challenged upon meeting Jonathan Strange, a charming and reckless young man who also possesses magical powers. The two form an unlikely alliance to return magic to England, exploring the depths of magic and its limits as they discover new techniques and spells.

The novel is characterized by its vivid descriptions of the magical world, the interconnectedness of its themes, and its intricate plot. A blend of history, fantasy, and adventure, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is an enchanting novel that captivates the reader from start to finish. It explores themes of power, good and evil, and the cost of pursuing one’s desires.

The intricate web of characters and subplots, coupled with a compelling writing style, creates a narrative that is both complex and entertaining. Through the various twists and turns of the novel, the reader is immersed in a magical world filled with rich detail and fantastical events.

Audiobook Performance and Narration

One of the critical factors in determining the success of an audiobook is the quality of the voice actors and overall audio production value. In the case of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,” the audiobook performance and narration are a standout. The voice actors bring each character to life with their ability to capture the essence of the story. The rich, warm tones of Simon Prebble’s narration compliment the narrative’s tone and pacing, creating an immersive experience for the listener.

Furthermore, the audio production value is of high quality, with clear and crisp sound design and smooth pacing to match the ebb and flow of the story. The sound effects and music used in the audiobook add emphasis to specific scenes, transporting the reader to another world.

audiobook performance and narration

Writing Style and Worldbuilding

One of the most impressive aspects of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is Susanna Clarke’s writing style. Her use of language creates a vivid and enchanting atmosphere that pulls readers into the story’s magical world. Clarke excels at crafting unique characters, each with their own voice and personality, that feel real and relatable. Her character development is superb, driving the story forward through their individual arcs and interactions with each other.

But perhaps the greatest achievement of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is the intricate and engaging worldbuilding. Clarke has created a rich and detailed universe, full of magic, history, and mythology. Every aspect of the world feels carefully crafted, from the political systems to the magical laws that govern it. The result is a story that immerses readers in its universe, leaving them hungry for more.

The attention to detail in the worldbuilding is impressive and elevates the story to new heights. The magic system, in particular, is complex and well-structured, adding a layer of depth to the story that is often missing in other fantasy novels. Clarke’s ability to construct a world that is simultaneously familiar and new is a testament to her skill as a writer.

Themes and Symbolism

In “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,” Susanna Clarke masterfully weaves together various themes and symbols throughout the narrative to create a multifaceted and thought-provoking story.

One of the most prominent themes in the novel is the exploration of power and its abuse. From the beginning, readers are introduced to the mysterious world of magic and the power struggles between different characters. As the story progresses, the consequences of seeking and wielding power become increasingly dangerous, ultimately leading to devastating consequences.

Another theme that is explored in “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is the tension between reason and emotion. Throughout the novel, characters are forced to balance their rationality with their passions and desires, leading to difficult decisions and conflicting motivations.

The symbolism present in the novel also contributes to its complexity and depth. One example of this is the recurring image of mirrors, which represents the duality of characters and their hidden selves. This symbolism adds an extra layer of meaning to the story and reinforces the complexity of the characters and their motivations.

Overall, the themes and symbolism in “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” elevate the novel beyond a simple work of fantasy and contribute to its complex and thought-provoking nature.

Pacing and Plot Development

One of the most critical aspects of any audiobook is pacing and plot development. “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke is a 32-hour audiobook, and it is crucial to examine if the story unfolds smoothly and maintains the listener’s interest.

The book’s pacing is generally even, though there are moments where the story slows down to set up for significant events. This approach works well for the audiobook, as the slower pace allows for necessary worldbuilding and character development.

Overall, the plot is epic, with various subplots that may be challenging to follow for some listeners. However, the audiobook resolves all subplots effectively, and the story culminates in an exciting and satisfying finale.

Impact on the Audiobook Experience

The pacing and plot development have a significant impact on the listener’s experience. A well-paced story keeps the audience engaged and invested in the characters and plot, while uneven pacing can lead to disinterest and detachment from the story. The epic plot of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” can be challenging to follow at times, but the audiobook’s pacing and plot development do an excellent job of keeping the listener engaged throughout the 32 hours.

Comparison to the Book Version

If you have already read the book version of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,” the audiobook may offer a different experience. While the core story remains the same, there are some notable differences between the two versions.

The book is known for its rich descriptions and details, which may be difficult to capture fully in an audiobook. However, the audiobook’s performance by Simon Prebble and Davina Porter brilliantly brings forth the world of magic and mystery. For instance, Prebble’s portrayal of Mr Norrell and his reluctance to trust Jonathan adds depth and nuance to the story. Meanwhile, Porter’s narration captures the whimsical tone of Clarke’s prose, bringing out the humor and intelligence of the writing.

It’s worth noting that the audiobook edition is unabridged, meaning that it includes all the content from the book. However, the listening experience may not be as immersive as reading the book, especially if you prefer to take your time and savor the details.

Comparison Table

Book Audiobook
Pacing The pace may seem slow, allowing for meaningful reflection The audio pace is engaging, and the narration permits an extended view
World-building The language used and the descriptive aspect produces a vivid image of the world The acting generally — most audibly the different accents — does a good job of differentiating between characters and adjusting one’s perception of the story ahead
Length A long novel with 800 pages to read Can be enjoyed in long sessions and can be listened to while performing everyday tasks

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference whether you choose the book or audiobook version. If you’re often on the go and don’t have time for reading, the audiobook is an excellent alternative. On the other hand, if you prefer fully immersing yourself in the story, the book may be the better pick.

Overall Recommendation

After a thorough review of the audiobook version of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke, our overall recommendation is highly positive. The narration and audio production are exceptional, bringing the story to life in a captivating way. The writing style and worldbuilding are meticulously crafted and transport the listener to a magical alternate reality.

The themes and symbolism add depth to the narrative, making it a thought-provoking and engaging experience. Although the pacing and plot development may be slow at times, it ultimately leads to a satisfying conclusion.

If you are a fan of historical fiction with a magical twist, we highly recommend giving “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” a listen. It is a delightful and enchanting experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Overall, the audiobook version of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke offers a captivating and magical experience for listeners. The voice actors do an excellent job of bringing the characters to life, and the audio production value is top-notch.

Susanna Clarke’s writing style is rich and intricate, with well-developed characters and a fascinating world full of magical elements. The themes and symbolism present throughout the story add depth and meaning to the narrative, making it an engaging and thought-provoking read.

The pacing and plot development are executed smoothly, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged until the end. For those who have already read the book version, the audiobook offers a fresh perspective on the story.

Overall, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is a unique and enchanting tale that is well worth listening to in audiobook format. Whether you are a fan of fantasy, historical fiction, or simply enjoy a good story, this audiobook is sure to captivate and delight.

So, don’t hesitate to give “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” a listen and let yourself be transported to a world of magic and wonder!

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