A Critique Of Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell
I listened to this audio book while working stocking shelves for a retail chain on graveyards about 6 years ago. What else did I have to do with my time? It was somewhat interesting but it wasn’t half as interesting as American Gods by Neil Gaiman that I had listened to previously, however that is a hard book to live up to, it is excellent. I was glad to see that book is being brought to film as well. I have been waiting a long time.
However, when I saw the advertisements for the miniseries on BBC America for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, I was actually excited to watch it as it looked like an incredibly interesting television series. Once I began to watch the first episode, I realized that it was actually a fantastic series right from the beginning. Some things when they are put to film, do much better then their novels. This was one of those times. The acting was outstanding, Bertie Carval and Eddie Marsan did an excellent job as the two rival magicians, and the whole supporting cast was wonderful.
I ended up watching it every episode without fail. The period costumes and buildings and London itself from the time Napoleonic Era were very well done. The fairy kingdom and “The Gentleman” were just as I pictured from the book which was literally enchanting. Along with the rival magicians, Jonathan also had a relationship with his wife that was of great importance to the book. The travels to Venice and around the English countryside were also very interesting along with the lore about the “Raven King”.
I was surprised at how dark the television series was. The book hadn’t appeared that dark to me. But there were individuals being brought back from the dead, missing fingers, bargains made that were not known to the person making the bargain. The switching out of a human with a changeling. The fairy lore was dark as it had actually been in the U.K. The Faeries actually being untrustworthy and dangerous folks that were not easily controlled. The character “The Gentleman” in the story, actually attempts to assassinate the King of England.
Jonathan Strange learns about the horrors of war working as the English magician helping his country to win the war. Also, just how quickly those that are not magicians can turn on those that practice magic. As Jonathan delves more and more in the dangerous arts, literally making himself go mad, the story becomes darker and darker, until he uncovers the truth about what has happened and how he has been tricked. He does this at the expense of his own health and sanity. Norrell who was once his rival, turns out to be his one and only friend as they eventually work together. Jonathan Strange with his natural talent and Norrell with his book smarts. The end of the tale leaves you wondering if there will be a part II. Because it leaves it open for that.
I would say that BBC has yet again done an excellent job with fantasy and Sci-Fi. But then anything they tend to work on these days turns to gold. One thing about the U.K. is that they definitely know how to entertain. I have never enjoyed shows like I do Doctor Who, Orphan Black and Sherlock. They do this without a Hollywood budget too. For over a century they have also given us some of the most fantastic performers and actors the world has ever seen. I would say that this television series would attest to that.
- BBC One - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
With magic long since lost to England, two men are destined to bring it back.