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See the BBC Trailer for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Susanna Clarke’s debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) won both the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award, and became a New York Times bestseller. The BBC announced they were adapting the book as a seven-part series staring Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan, Filth) as Mr Norrell, and Bertie Carvel (Restless, Matilda) as Jonathan Strange late last year.

The series is set at the beginning of the 19th-century, in an England where public belief in magic has begun to die off. The reclusive Mr Norrell stuns the city of York when he causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. With a little persuasion and help from his man of business Childermass (Enzo Cilenti), he goes to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon. It is there Norrell summons a fairy (Marc Warren) to bring Lady Pole (Alice Englert) back from the dead, a decision that has dark consequences…

The series begins broadcasting on BBC One on May 1st. It will air in Canada on Space, and in the United States on BBC America.


  1. As I posted on markrigney’s piece, BBC America impresses me on the series they produce. Orphan Black was a hit. I look forward to viewing this.

    Comment by Wild Ape - April 28, 2015 6:58 pm

  2. I really couldn’t get into the book! It emulated Victorian literature way too well. However the series has promise.

    Comment by M Harold Page - April 28, 2015 7:11 pm

  3. > BBC America impresses me on the series they produce. Orphan Black was a hit.

    Orphan Black is terrific! I love seeing a series with so many Canadian actors… even my wife loves it.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 28, 2015 10:28 pm

  4. > I really couldn’t get into the book! It emulated Victorian literature way too well.

    I haven’t read the book. But I agree the series looks very promising. One more DVD to buy…

    Comment by John ONeill - April 28, 2015 10:28 pm

  5. M Harold Page,

    I got about a fourth of the way into it. I thought it was great! But written at such a leisurely pace that it never really sunk its hooks into me and got me turning pages in “can’t-put-it-down” gear. At some point I set it aside and just never went back to it. I’d still like to finish it someday.

    Comment by Nick Ozment - April 29, 2015 1:28 am

  6. Guys, go back and give the book another chance. I would describe the pace more as variable, rather than leisurely. There are some very fast-paced stretches.

    After reading a bunch of novels built on the famous Donald Maass principle that tension must escalate on every single page so that the reader feels dragged by the hair through the story, I concluded that I did not like being dragged by the hair as much as Mr. Maass seems to. It was such a relief to find Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which alternated tension with release on the small scale while winding its large-scale plot threads subtly tighter.

    It’s the images and their emotional resonances, though, that stick with me, far more than any aspect of the pacing. They’re still sharp and startling, some beautiful and some horrifying, and some both. I’m tempted to describe a few here, to entice you back into the book, but they’ll be so much more powerful when you find them on your own.

    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one of my favorite books of all time, one I can call great in any company without hesitation. Susanna Clarke makes me want to be a better writer. I’ve deleted several sentences of gushing praise here, because it all boils down to this:

    Don’t miss out.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - April 30, 2015 12:13 am

  7. I bought the paperback of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell when it was first published and it sat on my shelf for ten years, waiting for the necessary block of time required to read an 800+ page book. That block of time occurred in the week after Christmas 2014, when I sat in front of our fireplace and read at least four hours a day.

    Clarke didn’t just make an incredible contribution to the fantasy genre — she made a contribution to English literature itself. Mrs. Kuhl likewise gave it a try and couldn’t get into it; but I can’t understand how anyone could put it down.

    I understand the miniseries made some drastic changes to the book for brevity and budget’s sake, which is understandable. I’m cautiously excited for this.

    Comment by Jackson Kuhl - April 30, 2015 10:45 am

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