Subject: Re: alternate englands: when?

Roslyn rosgross at
Tue Feb 8 22:41:19 EST 2005

> Charlie? Deborah?
>> I suppose we must add Jonathan Whatsit and Mr
> Oddly (or whatever it's
> called - a curiously forgettable title) to this
> list. Certainly early
> nineteenth century, to judge by the cast list.
> Dorian
> <I've just started reading "Jonathan Strange and
> Mr. Norrell".  It is firmly
> in the Regency period; the chapters even have
> dates on them.  A quick
> check - it runs from autumn 1806 to spring 1817.>


> Hey! I'm reading it too. Found it a bit slow at
> first, kept checking the chapter list for when
> the Strange fellow was going to turn up, but now
> I'm well into it I find it is a book well worth
> grappling with. Grappling in both senses, it is a
> most weighty tome so I read it mostly in bed,
> with the duvet bunched up to make a book rest.

I'm currently reading it also. I'm nearly half-way through, and am finding 
it most absorbing, though, like you, it took me a while to get into it.

It's an awkward book to carry around, which poses a bit of a problem for me, 
because, rather than read several books at once, which might involve having 
a book at home, a book at work, etc,  I like to be thoroughly absorbed into 
one book at a time and take it with me everywhere.

> Anyhow what i have noticed is that it is one of
> those books with a screen narrator. The apparent
> author seems to be writing a generation or so
> after the events of the novel. Paraphrasing,
> there is a reference for example to those yellow
> curtained magicians booths that the reader may
> remember from childhood. It would seem to stand
> in the same chronological relation to it's
> subject as Vanity Fair. The style of writing also
> seems to me to be definitely that of the mid
> nineteenth century or later rather than Regency.
> I've only a scrappy knowledge of Victorian
> literature -- has anyone read JS & MN who feels
> able to comment on the style more closely, ie is
> there any particular writer that Susannah Clarke
> is taking off?

I'm pretty sure I can see echoes of Jane Austen in the ironic, dry 
observations and the authorial asides, even particular phrases Clarke uses 
(I wish I could think of particular examples but I can't right now), the way 
she often paraphrases dialogue, with embedded authorial irony. The style 
does have a definite Austenian ring to me. The names of the characters feel 
more Dicksenian, though.


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