The style of the book certainly feels like an old book and again, I mean this as a compliment. The book is an alternate history of England in the early 1800s and Clarke makes it feel like other books written at this time, like Austen. After I had begun the book I double checked the inside cover to see when this book was actually published. I'm sure a scholar of Victorian literature could explain to me all of the reasons this is wrong. I don't mean Clarke's work is equal to Austen. I haven't read far enough to say if that's the case, but I'm not a huge fan of work from this time period so I can't say if there is a different author from this time she sounds more like.
The book, in a simplified summary, is an alternate history about magicians in England during the Napoleonic wars. To me this sounds like it could be interesting or it could be very dry, depending on how much of the book is about the wars and how much is about magic. What I didn't expect is how much it is about general life for the upper middle class and how much of the book is about dinners and card playing and gentlemen. It's in this sense that it reminds me of the many dinners and dances of Austen's work. I would not have previously said the forced courtesy of 19th century discourse is what I want to spend my free time reading but I'm loving it. I'm sure the fact that it is about a magician, not matter how dull he may be, helps the matter. And there is a humor to the interactions, a satire of the times that Clarke subtly employs. Here's an excerpt that gives a good indication of the general tone and language
"You are a magician, sir?" said Mrs Wintertowne. "I am sorry to hear it. It is a profession I have a particular dislike to." She looked keenly at him as she said so, as though her disapproval might in itself be enough to make him renounce magic instantly and take up some other occupation." (88)I suppose Clarke's humor also reminds me of Dickens. There's a smirking sarcasm to it that feels more like Dickens, although that could be because I'm also reading A Christmas Carole on my iPod Touch to see if I can get used to reading on there or if I should give in and get an e-reader.
I will most likely have a few entries on other books while I get through this one. I have a bit of reading ADD and as it is I'm supposed to be reading What's My Name, Fool? for my book club. It's really more of a drink-wine-and-catch-up club but we at least pick out a book for everyone to read so I'll try to get to this one as well. It gives me a chance to read books I wouldn't have picked up on my own.
Title quote page 4
Clarke, Susanna. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, London. 2004.