And you know what? WORTH it. Sometimes a quantity is a quality in itself, and meandering magically through England for 1006 pages is a little like being stuck in an elevator with someone for days. You will have STRONG FEELINGS about them by the end, and you will sort of miss them when they are gone.
Ok, so. It is England and there is magic but less magic than formerly because all the magicians that remain are ‘theoretical’ magicians, by which I mean Studious Gentlemen Who Read Books (about Magic), Eh Wot. Enter Mr Norrell, who is equally stodgy but has the added distinction of being a ‘practical’ magician, which means that he can Do Shit.
With 1006 pages, Clarke is in no hurry to get anywhere and the scenery is charming so, really, neither are you. Yadda yadda botched revivification of a young lady, resulting in enchantment, yadda yadda Jonathan Strange desultorily picks ‘magic’ as a career to impress his lady fair, becomes Norrell’s pupil, yadda yadda England is like What ho, real magicians! Have at the French with them!
It’s all jolly and proper and amusing until about 500 pages in, when there is a very dignified rift between the two magicians and then things sort of Go Dark. I thought it was going to be nothing but Jeevesey good times (with less slapstickery) but at least one person dies violently.
It’s one part A S Byatt and one part Connie Willis at her Victorianest and one part actual Victorian and a great deal of sitting around composedly drinking pots of chocolate so you’d best settle in for a long, slow chuckle, complete with footnotes.