Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Book 2/50 is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Christ, blogger ate my huge post about how much I like this book. Anyway, in short (because that's all I have the patience for now), Clarke's novel is impeccably plotted, her characters are fascinatingly flawed, and the naturalism is deeply organic, which is saying a lot about a book about two mid-19th century sorcerors attempting to revive the half-forgotten history of English magic. It ain't Moby Dick, but it's heads or tails above most novels out there, with brilliant observations about people's relationships with their inner selves, their friends and loved ones, and the past. The foreshadowed time bombs were laid with gentle care and many surprised me when they went off. The climax itself was some 100 pages of fever pitch battle with my desire to get to the conclusion and my enjoyment of each and every word. Anyone who dismisses this as mere genre fiction needs to get that jerking knee examined. It's all I ask for in a modern novel, especially a modern novel about a made-up history. It's very close in spirit to Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (which I also loved), but Clarke is a better writer than Stephenson, more readily able to seamlessly integrate her craft into the story. Highly recommended.

On a side note, apologies to a certain author friend whose book I haven't finished yet. I have a handful of books due back to the library soon, and this one in particular seemed likely to be unfinished if I didn't prioritize it.


Alyssa 10:43 AM, January 26, 2005  

So how long did it take you to go through this book? It is on my must-read list, but I'm cheap - so I'm waiting until it comes out in paperback.

I'm totally lying, I'll probably buy it in a few weeks. I am cheap - ask anyone.

I like your assessment of the book - I like a nice engaging book that pulls me in.

Hayden Childs 10:59 AM, January 26, 2005  

Hi, Alyssa! I'm generally a fast reader, and this one took me about a week, which was pretty much how long each volume of the Baroque Cycle took. It took me a few chapters to get sucked in, but I think complex works are just like that.

On another note, I'm embarrassed to say that the book I haven't finished is our mutual friend's book. It's fantastic, but I had to interrupt my reading to finish this one (and I have two more due back at the library next week) and to re-read baby-birthing books. Anyway, I can't wait to get back to it.

Scott 12:08 PM, January 26, 2005  

Well, it's your loss. Chapter 9, "Raisin' Babies the Hillbilly Way," has all kinds of helpful tips. For instance, a spoonful o' shine quiets 'em down right quick!

Hayden Childs 1:37 PM, January 26, 2005  

I think any baby we raise will be de facto raised the hillbilly way. Or, as we prefer, the Sons of the Soil way.

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