Day 18 – A book you wish you could live in – Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

I suppose, as with a lot of people, when I saw today’s subject I first thought of Harry Potter and the magical world where he resides. However, at the end of the day, the main setting in the stories is Hogwarts. I see enough of schools in my day job so I do not particularly want to imagine myself there in my spare time. After all, a magical school is still a school. In fact it would, in some ways, be worse. Think of all the trouble that could be caused by classroom full of fourteen year olds and then add in magic. No thanks!

I am sticking with magic though. What I loved about Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was the way it mixed magic into the real history of the start of 1800s. It reads like a genuine history of the times, complete with footnotes like any academic book and makes reference to other biographies of Strange and Norrell. Imagine if the during the Napoleonic war, the French were really frightened off by ghost ships

IMG_0024sent to scare them. How much more thrilling than any actual history of this war!

For me, one thing in the Potter books that did not sit well was the use of magic in a modern world with cars and buses and so on. In my head, magic belongs in an earlier time with horses and candlelight and no technology to speak of. The nineteenth century seemed to be more likely a setting for magic than the twentieth. And then there is the dashing, handsome figure of Jonathan Strange who is daring – indeed reckless might be nearer the mark – and will see no limits to his power. I felt strangely sad at the end of the book when he and Norrell disappear into the darkness. As if England were really bereft without the only men who could save it.

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