Reading a book at the wrong time in your life can definitely change the way you view it.
It’s like meeting someone in the heady excitement of your late teens/early 20s, who you’d probably be brilliant with had you met them 10 years later, but for that time in your life they just aren’t quite right.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was a bit like that for me. (I know romance to reading is a bit of a leap but stick with me here!).
My life at the moment is busy, and hectic and full of planning. It’s been like that since my days as a features editor, but now the scales are tipping and life is edging ahead of work in the busy stakes. There are weddings and hen parties and birthdays galore and it’s amazing and fun and exciting, but busy. So wading through a 1,000 pager isn’t high on my to-do list.
And that’s probably why it’s taken me two months to finish Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
I should note that this is not an excuse, but more of a caveat. I think JS&MN could be a brilliant read. There are times I loved it, and felt utterly lost in the magic.
There are some set pieces of magic which are stunning to read about, and which make it easy to see why the BBC decided to do a TV adaptation.
The story is an epic saga of how Norrell and Strange bring magic back to England in the early 1800s. But each magician has his own agenda and with the dual problem of dark magic circulating out of their hands, and the Napoleonic war, it is a dangerous time.
It’s got magic and intrigue, and it is very well written.
But it’s long. And there are times it felt as if the magical world was just too convoluted for me to really enjoy in my current whirlwind. Perhaps if I’d read it at Christmas when there was time to really go wandering inside the faerie world I would have enjoyed it a bit more.
I have wondered if there just wasn’t enough spark to make me pick it up in every spare moment I had but I really don’t think that’s the case. I think it needs to be so detailed and extensive to really immerse you in the faerie/non-faerie worlds and Clarke does that wonderfully.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is, Dear Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, it’s probably not you, it’s me.