Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book Review with Becky!

I have a new book review this weekend, and it's a pretty exciting one because you're getting not one opinion but two!  My fabulous cousin Becky and I were recently concurrently reading a very magical book called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - it's set during the regency era in England and follows the adventures of two gentleman magicians.  When we were visiting each other over the summer, I roped her into doing a bookish vlog about it.  Now we've got a bookish post too!

From Becky: Hello everyone!  My lovely cousin Emma has invited me to contribute to her post about the book we both read, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.  Unfortunately, I am not a writer.  I am, however, a list person.  So I decided to contribute a list of my thoughts about the book.

From EmmaBecky and I have been writing each other letters since we were in third grade, so I think she is being far too modest when she says she's not a writer. ;)  However, I LOVE the idea of a list, so I decided to mix my thoughts in with Becky's.  Here we go:

-From Becky: Wikipedia says that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, “…investigates the nature of “Englishness” and the boundaries between reason and unreason…” (I always google books I don’t know so I don’t run into any unpleasant surprises).  This makes the books sound SUPER intellectual and is kind of intimidating, but it was actually an interesting read.

-From Emma: A rather hipster-ish friend of mine originally recommended this book, and Becky and I - refusing to be out-hipstered ;) - were determined to get through all 846 pages.  I started with the library copy, but in the end I liked it so much I bought one for myself!

-Becky: Ms. Clarke’s writing style reminded me of classic authors like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.  I loved her writing style—especially her use of archaic words, spellings and phrases.

-Emma: I sometimes indulge in Jane Austen knock-off novels and unofficial sequels...and I'm almost invariably disappointed.  Jane Austen is pretty impossible to top - but Susanna Clarke hugely impressed me.  Her style was witty and charming and reminiscent of Austen without making your skin crawl.  There was even a nod to Emma:

"It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry.  Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne!  No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week."

-Becky: Clarke's descriptions of the fairy realm of Lost-Hope and magical happenings reminded me a lot of G. K. Chesterton—very unique and almost surreal.  The magic in the book is inextricably woven in with the Faerie—not cute, funny, fairy godmother type fairies, but a race of terrifying, elemental, irrational beings living in a surreal world.

-Emma: You're making me want to go read Chesterton now, Becks. ;)  Some of the magic was pretty crazy and tense - these are old-school fairies like in Irish legends (think Yeats).  The magic is tied not only to the fairies but also to the landscape of England itself in a really beautiful way.  Many of the important scenes seemed to take place during the winter in the snow, and those descriptions were just gorgeous.

-Becky: Ms. Clarke includes a lot of footnotes that reference various (fictional) books of magic, stories, myths and historical facts which were a lot of fun to read, but I would end up getting confused and sidetracked.

-Emma: The footnotes were one of my favorite parts!  They really drew you into the world of the book.  Some gave you such tantalizing short snippets of stories - I wished they were from real titles that I could go out and read!  Mr. Norrell's library at Hurtfew Abbey sounded epic...if you are a book lover, you will especially enjoy JS & Mr. N.

-Becky: Overall, I enjoyed this book.  The writing was beautiful, with many memorable passages and the characters felt very real.  The story lagged at a few points, but not unbearably so.  That’s all I have.  Goodbye!  <3 Becks

Thank you so much Becky!  Hopefully I can talk her into doing another joint book review soon. :)  I would highly recommend this book, and if you want to hear more about it, you can watch the video:

BBC has adapted this into a miniseries which was filmed last year and should be coming out soon - can't wait to see that!

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