Magical England! Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

I'm not a reader of alternate histories, but I may be tempted one day. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke's debut novel, is set in a "magical England" during the Napoleonic Wars and focuses on the relationship between two magicians, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It was first published in 2004, and is gaining in popularity again as it is the subject of a BBC One series screening in the U.K. this month and in the U.S.A. in June. Not sure if it will come to Australian television, but one never knows.  

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

Always interested in novels set in one of my favourite historical periods, the Napoleonic Wars, I'm curious how the historical and fantasy elements work together. This is not a novel for the faint-hearted. The copy I added to my reading pile weighs in at approximately 700 grams and is a lengthy 1,006 pages. This will definitely be a challenging read should I step out of my usual genre ....  or I could wait for the series release on DVD!

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