Thoughts on Re-Reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Last year I decided I wanted to re-read this behemoth of a book. I refer to this book as a behemoth because I have the combined paperback of all three books. It’s a sucker to hold up, if like me, you’re reading it in bed which may have contributed to part of my slow reading. My arms would give out and due to the number of pillows holding me and my arms aloft, I would get comfy and drift off — the drifting off had nothing to do with the story though. That, I can assure you, is still good to go.
Did I enjoy this re-read? I did and here’s why:
Mr Norrell is still arrogant and naive. His hoarding of books is something I can totally understand although I obviously like to share more than he does. I found him to be much more annoying this time around though. I’m not sure if I noticed it the first time I read the book or not but he’s much more insecure than I remember his character to be.
Childermas, butler to Mr Norrell, is a character I liked much more this time around. His sarcastic, biting remarks are such a contrast to Mr Norrell and he does it sometimes knowing that Norrell won’t understand either because he hasn’t told him or he doesn’t get society in general. He also played a larger part in the plot than I originally remembered.
Mr Drawlight and Mr Lascelles are a riot of absurdity. These two are the main reason for describing this book as Austen-esque. They are society at its best.
Jonathan Strange is much more interesting on the magical front but has a few of the same eccentric habits about him which even he admits may have come from Norrell. He also doesn’t show up until much later in the story than I thought he did. The things you happen upon while re-reading.
The setting is lovely, lovely, lovely.
The man with the thistle down hair! Yes, yes, yes. He’s mean and self-centered but I adore his magical style.
Jonathan Strange’s fall into the magical underworld — it’s interesting to see what his obsession with outdoing Mr Norrell does to him and to those he loves.
What I didn’t enjoy so much:
The length. I knew this was a long book. I’d read it before and thought I was prepared for it but it was still long. Knowing what happened, even if I was a tad foggy on some of the specifics, stopped me from reading ahead but I also didn’t feel like there was a pressing need for me to rush through either. I read very slowly, and probably enjoyed the story all the more for it, but when I got down to the end, I wanted it to just end. Those last 150 pages were the longest 150 pages I’ve spent with a book in a very long time.
It was a successful re-read though. I’m glad I decided to read it again and that I did it early in the year. I think if I had waited, I might not have gotten to it, mostly because of the size. I like long books, but this one felt extra long though.
When someone asks about a great fantasy read, I’ll still recommend this book but I’ll warn people to scope out time for it and don’t tread into it lightly.