alternate englands: when?

Ven vendersleighc at
Sun Feb 13 22:06:02 EST 2005

On Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell I said I

<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.>

Allison replied
<I just finished it earlier this week.  It is 
slow-paced, but I didn't
find that to be boring or a drawback.  I found by

the end of the book
I had a real sense of the time that had passed in

the story.>

I didn't actually mean to imply that it was a
drawback, let alone boring. It did make me a bit
impatient, but that's just about what I'm like as
a reader. It's one of those books that takes it's
time laying down the foundations so that it can
then unfurl majestically without checking to
explain itself. It is, thus, quite unlike the
type of modern novel that opens in media res and
has to play catch up with itself throughout. it's
interesting to contrast JS & MN with Tooth and
Claw (Jo Walton). This is also a pastiche of a
nineteenth century novel and pretends to be
addressing a reader that is quite familiar with
the precepts of the society expounded, although
in fact it is mixing and matching Victorian
sentimentalism with fantasy and indeed SF. Qite
different reading experiences yet neither can be
anything but modern novels in 19C clothing.

One thing I particularly liked about JS etc was
the folkloreish footnotes that sounded just like
the kind of thing I've read in Katherine Briggs. 
They are a very useful device for giving the
historical perspective that the book needs but
which would have sat oddly in the main text.

I asked 
>there any particular writer that Susannah Clarke
>is taking off? 
Robin replied

<Austen. The sentence structure and the wry, dry 
humour make it fairly 
clear Austen is a major influence. Also, that 
fits with the time period 
of the events in the novel.>

Ah I was misled perhaps by my own predjudice
about Austen. Nontheless the frame narrative does
seem to place it rather later. Also the tone
seems considerably less sharp to me, the
characters tending less to the grotesque  and the
perspective much broader. 


Do you Yahoo!? 
The all-new My Yahoo! - What will yours do? 

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list