Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - aulsmith tutoring Morphidae

Diskutera75 Books Challenge for 2012

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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - aulsmith tutoring Morphidae

Denna diskussion är för närvarande "vilande"—det sista inlägget är mer än 90 dagar gammalt. Du kan återstarta det genom att svara på inlägget.

jan 1, 2012, 10:06 am

I await your questions.

Also hoping some of the 19th century literature tutors will drop in and help you also.

And if there's a Napoleonic Wars expert out there, we'll definitely both need help towards the middle of the book.

jan 1, 2012, 12:31 pm

I'm hoping I'll be as interesting a tutee as SqueakyChu was but it's doubtful. I'm not much of a chatterer, but I'm going to do my darnest!

I'll start reading one chapter a day or every other day sometime today or tomorrow.

Here's the touchstone:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

jan 1, 2012, 12:56 pm

That brings up an interesting question. Do you want me to chatter about things I notice, even if you don't ask about them? Or would that just be distracting?

jan 1, 2012, 1:18 pm

As long as you don't chatter ahead of where I am in the book, I'd be delighted.

Redigerat: jan 1, 2012, 2:23 pm

Well done, you brave pioneers! I hope this works well for both of you.

Madeline fell into the habit of making regular notations of where she was up to in her book - that might help keep the conversation "safe".

jan 1, 2012, 11:00 pm

I am so happy to be lurking on this thread. At least I don't have to read a "heavy" book for a while. I can just watch your progress. :)

I'd suggest that, as you finish each chapter that you title your message with the chapter number and include one line that tells what happens in that chapter. Then both tutor and tutee can talk about that particular chapter as much as they want. That worked really well for Liz and me.

If the chapters are long, just title them something like:

Chapter 1 - Part 1 of 4

It really helps. In fact, it will help even more later when others also want to read the same book and may not want their own tutor for one reason or another.

This is great fun. I hope you both enjoy this experience as much as I did...although I can't say I was crazy about the book I read. :)

Redigerat: jan 2, 2012, 6:27 am

Chapter 1 - In which Jonathan meets Norrell

1. From the flyleaf - "a magisterial first novel" - what is a magisterial novel?

2. "Northern... better respected than southern ones." - is there a North vs. South competition in "real" Britain? Like the Yanks and Rednecks in the US?

3. "...not the fashion to be modest and quiet and kind-hearted." - was she being sarcastic? I thought this is what a gentleman was supposed to be?

4. "... such small handwriting..." - this was mentioned several times. Does it mean anything?

5. "half-gentlemen" - so anyone who has been in trade can't be a gentleman?

6. "light within the room did not seem to accord" - does this get explained later?

7. Some names get mentioned as Gold or Silver Age magicians. Are these real people that got fictionalized for the book or totally fictional names?

8. "Cold Henry" - real folklore or made up for the book?

jan 2, 2012, 10:35 am

Hmm, first off, we haven't met Jonathan yet. Although, I too thought Mr. Segundus was Jonathan, he is in fact a secondary character.

1. Magisterial - "of or pertaining to a master". (Though with book blurbs I often interpret things like that to mean "the book was very long, I didn't get through it in time and I will use a big word to hint at that)

2. The Northern part of England was conquered and ruled by the Danish Vikings in the late 700s and 800s. Evidently there were customs left over from the Danelaw which had to be reconciled with the Anglo-Saxon south in the 900s (Whew, just read that this morning in The Anglo-Saxon Age: A Very Short Introduction. Also York is the misty dark county of Wuthering Heights and The Hound of the Baskervilles. (It's also home of the dales of James Herriot's All Things Bright and Beautiful. However, as far as I know there is no current split between them, though I think York might be considered more rural than the industrial south and west. There is no split in their folklore or attitudes towards Faerie that I'm aware of, so I decided she was making that part up.

3. A jab at the Austen hero, I think. It was a time when business was starting to pay off much better than gentleman farming.

4. It makes me think that Norrell writes a lot for himself, taking notes (perhaps rather secretively) and doesn't correspond much with others.

5. If you didn't inherit your money, you weren't really a gentleman.

6. "light within the room did not seem to accord" I don't remember if it does or not. Let's just say that the magic gets so much bigger later that this isn't really important.

7. None of the names are familiar to me. The fact that she has Pale die in the middle of the reign of Elizabeth (assuming there isn't an alternate English government, I don't remember) and doesn't mention John Dee, who was a actual person who practiced alchemy, said to me she was making it all up and I didn't look any further.

8. I haven't run into "Cold Henry anywhere else, but the idea that the kings of Faerie change their names all the time is authentic. You're probably familiar with the idea that knowing a little person's true name gives you power over them, so I doubt anything they call themselves would be anything more than a pseudonym.

Did you notice that Mr. Childermas's name can be parsed as Chil - dermas (Cold skin)? Is he just the typical Dickensian man of business like Ebenezer Scrooge or Uriah Heap? Or is he something more?

Idle chatter

Although the dates on the first chapter are in the Regency, the book starts off like a Victorian Dicken's novel (The Pickwick Papers to be exact) signalling that this will not be a domestic comedy but one that travels about with far reaching consequences. Will it be an episodic journey like Pickwick Papers or a more tightly plotted book, like Tale of Two Cities where all the minor characters have important inter-connections later? Too early to say, but we'll keep Mr. Segundus' street magician in mind.

The "magicians" in York are said to "have never harmed anyone by magic" (not hard, since they didn't know any). However, Mr. Norrell's house is called "Hurtfew" so I think we can infer that fooling around with real magic is at least potentially dangerous.

I liked the contrast between Mr. Segundus' reaction to the Norrell library and Mr. Honeyfoot's. Mr. Honeyfoot admires the books as objects. Mr. Segundus wants to know what's in them.

Ms. Clarke's musings on book binding through Mr. Segundus are not entirely accurate. Disbinding isn't very difficult and if one wants something refoliated (broken into smaller volumes) there would be no reason for the book owner not to do the disbinding himself, though one would certainly not use a sharp knife.

jan 2, 2012, 10:39 am

Opps. I should have started with:

Well, done! You got through the first chapter of a novel written in the Victorian style, often the least lively and densest of the lot. I hope you now have enough questions about what Mr. Norrell is up to to propel you through the next one.

jan 3, 2012, 12:13 pm

Chapter 2 - In which Mr. Norrell agrees to perform magic

1. Not really a question but a comment. I find it odd that a secondary character is taking up much of the story so far - more so than the titular characters. When will Jonathan Strange show up?

2. "bishop or archbishop" - I'm assuming that's Church of England and not Catholicism?

3. "shew" and "chusing" - I'm assuming these are "show" and "choosing." Is this an author affectation or something British?

4. "Mr Norrell" and "Dr Foxcastle" - I'm used to seeing Mr. and Dr. (with periods.) Again, affectation or British?

5. "vergers and beadles... provosts" - what are these?

I'm having an easier time reading this try. Perhaps it's because I've read more classics and am more familiar with the rhythm. Or maybe it's just because I'm taking it slower.

jan 3, 2012, 4:17 pm

I can answer a couple of these with my limited knowledge and Googling abilities:

1. Secondary character: It's a very long book; the main characters will come to light soon. I think a number of Victorian novels start out with the main character being seen from an outsider's point of view.
Jonathan Strange: JS is significantly younger than Norrell, so at this point in the story he is not yet born. (Or possibly a child?) About halfway through the book the story switches to tell JS's backstory/childhood, etc. up to the point where he meets Norrell. And then continues from there.

2. Yes, CofE uses a lot of the same terminology as Catholicism.

3. I don't know.

4. Yes, it's British to leave the periods off if the last letter of the abbreviation is the same as the last letter of the full word. (Example: M(iste)r = no period. Prof(essor). = period)

5. Vergers and beadles are laymen who help with the church service and management. Provosts are senior church officials

jan 3, 2012, 4:40 pm

Glad it's going better for you this time. Now you've got a cliff hanger pushing you on to the next chapter.

1. As norabelle said (I think he's born but certainly not yet an adult.). Though it is also not uncommon in 19th century literature for the main character to be onstage under an assumed name, so your initial assumption wasn't a bad one. Mr (I guess I should leave off the period) Segundus does get to do his bit later on.

2. As norabelle said.

3. As you guessed. Now archaic spellings that were common at the beginning of the 19th century.

4. Whew, I'm glad norabelle knew that one!

5. I think beadles ran church charitable organizations. A beadle is in charge of Oliver Twist's orphanage. Vergers do stuff inside the church like polish the silver and usher (maybe take people on tours?) The general sense is that word has gotten around town about the conditions of the challenge and anyone who could make an excuse to be in the cathedral was.

Idle chat

The description of the position of York Cathedral in the old part of the city is very apt. You do keep coming on it from odd directions and it is quite admirable how ever approached. Tim and I got to spend 7 days wondering around York seeing everything from the ruins of the Roman fort underneath the Cathedral to the very modern train museum. I highly recommend the city to anyone going touring in Britain.

jan 3, 2012, 6:08 pm

You having been in York is pretty cool. Makes it even more fun.

Redigerat: jan 5, 2012, 2:57 pm

Chapter 3 - In which magic is performed

Don't have much for this chapter. I found the magic to be a bit creepy and it sent shivers down my spine.

1. What is a rood screen?

jan 5, 2012, 3:48 pm

1. Rood screen is a decorative division in a church between the nave (where the people are) and the alter area (where the priests are). The ones I've seen don't screen off the area entirely, just sort of provide a decorative frame. Some nice pictures of the Cathedral on wikipedia. I think the rood screen is the decorative bit on the lower half of the picture on the right labeled "Interior of York Minister".

I think you're getting more into the story now and are less distracted by details. In this chapter I found the way that the magic did both good (making people aware of the old wrongs done in the Cathedral) and bad (made the York magicians crabby old men who bothered their female relatives) very interesting.

As I told you privately, I'll be off email for a couple of days. I'll peek in tomorrow morning and then won't be on the net again until Monday afternoon. Please post any questions. Maybe our lurkers can fill in for me. Otherwise I'll catch up on Monday.

Good reading.

Redigerat: jan 5, 2012, 5:38 pm

Just adding re rood screen: the word 'rood' is an old english word for 'cross'; the rood screen usually is surmounted by a cross or crucifix, hence its name.

jan 5, 2012, 7:27 pm


jan 7, 2012, 2:58 pm

also lurking...

jan 7, 2012, 5:27 pm

lurking, learning, and vicariously enjoying through you :-D

jan 7, 2012, 8:28 pm

Also lurking.

jan 8, 2012, 3:47 pm

Chapter 4 - In which Mr Norrell goes to London

1. "... who knew there were such things as jokes in the world..." - heh, made me chuckle

2. "London party" - were they really such a mad crush?

3. "many-coloured hot-house fruits" - which would be what?

4. Childermass - is he more that what he seems? Will we find out more? Seems awfully knowledgeable for a "mere" butler

jan 8, 2012, 4:10 pm

3. Exotic fruits like oranges or pineapples were very popular in England, but they were notoriously hard to import. Because of that huge amounts of money were spent trying to grow them in heated greenhouses (hot-houses) and fresh exotic fruits were almost considered status symbols, so they would be on display at a party. (The Pineapple: King of Fruits has a lot more information on the topic)

I'll also be lurking in this thread, I finished the first part of the book but kind of stopped after that. Perhaps this thread will help me finish it!

jan 8, 2012, 4:28 pm

also lurking...

jan 8, 2012, 5:51 pm

Lurking like crazy. Had a like/hate relationship with this book when I read it in 2010...

Redigerat: jan 9, 2012, 2:09 pm

Chapter 5 - In which Mr Norrell enters society

I found it annoying that Mr Norrell let Mr Drawlight take his life over so much so was glad when Mr Norrell went around him in the end.

I hope Strange is more likable than Mr Norrell or this will be an unpleasant read.

How could someone like Mr Drawlight, with no money or property, be so influential in society?

jan 9, 2012, 5:14 pm

Lurking away, I spotted the mention of pineapples. I know it's a bit off thread, but some might be interested in the importance of said fruit in the past. Only for the richest.

jan 9, 2012, 5:57 pm

So glad to have discovered this thread! I'll be lurking. I read and loved the book a couple of years ago and am on the lookout for other writings of said author.

I liked Jonathan Strange much, much more than Mr Norrell, and believe I had the same feeling you are having at this point in the reading.

Redigerat: jan 9, 2012, 6:31 pm

Lurking, and adding a few notes.

The north/south division is actually still a factor in contemporary Britain, to some extent, and certainly was in the Victorian era. Elizabeth Gaskell tackled this in North and South, and more recently there has been a BBC TV program, "Our Friends in the North", that examined this. The North was the industrial heartland -- home to coal mines and the country's first factories. Gentlemen may have made their money from these ventures, but if their accents reflected their regional origins, that was not a great thing. To some extent that's still an issue. A friend of mine whose accent is regional (Staffordshire -- "the Potteries") and from an area known to be industrial in the Midlands, was harassed when he was at Cambridge. You might ask Genny about this, given her current location in "Geordie" land. In the 19th century, if you had a Yorkshire accent, you were assumed to be vulgar and newly wealthy. The North is also (along with Wales) the heart of the Labour Party.

Rood Screens: only a few of the best of these remain. They are a legacy of Catholicism, and many were destroyed either when Henry VIII went on the rampage or later, in the mid-17th century, when Cromwell's Puritan troops followed suit.

Hothouse fruits -- a feature of dinnertables right up into the 20th century. Anything that would spoil while being imported. Citrus fruits of all kinds, persimmons, pomegranates, pineapples. Think exotic and tropical. Prince Albert's "Crystal Palace" at the Great Exhibition of 1859 (I think the year is right??) was really just the world's largest hothouse. The passion for hothouses took off in the 18th century and became a big feature as exploring botanists brought home more exemplars of exotic stuff from India and China.

"shew" and "chusing" -- archaic usages. Spelling didn't begin to be standardized in informal discourse or personal letters until late in the 19th century.

Not having read the book, I can't comment with specific knowledge of Mr. Drawlight, but there are two options for someone with no money or property to have influence. One is by birth/breeding -- he could be the grandson of an earl or something of that ilk. The other is by knowing secrets about influential or wealthy people.

London parties -- yes, they could be tremendous crowds. It's one reason young women could escape onto balconies with some degree of propriety! Ices were often served to offer women a way to cool down amidst the crowd.

Small handwriting -- one thing that crossed my mind is that for many years, it was the recipient of a letter that had to pay for it. So people would keep their writing small to fit more information on a page and sometimes "cross" the page -- turn the paper around and write across what they had already written. Also, paper could be expensive, so someone might keep their handwriting small to get more use out of the paper they had. That was believed to be one reason why the Brontes wrote their tiny fantasy books in eye-straininginly small handwriting.

jan 9, 2012, 8:10 pm

I hope you continue to enjoy the book. You seem to be plowing through a lot of stuff at the same time!

Thanks to all the lurkers for helping out. There are certainly things I would have missed otherwise.

Chapter 4

2. Parties. Well covered by Chatterbox. Of course, Mrs. Godesdone is really very shocking and clearly trying to social climb, with Mr. Drawlight's help. Thus she has invited anyone she has any connection with to this party, so it's really large.

3. Glad other folks knew that one.

4. I think so (Don't quite remember). Yes. Yes (though he's not a butler, he's the "man of business." A lot of Dicken's men of business were rather better informed than one might think. And Lord Peter Wimsey always turned to Freddy Arbuthnot for the dirt on people's finances.)

Chapter 5

Yes, Mr. Norrell does seem to be getting better at getting what he wants out of his introduction into London society. And without Childermass's help either.

Thanks, Chatterbox. Drawlight is, indeed, the second kind of person without money.

Idle chit-chat

I see we now have a name for Mr. Segundus' street magician "a vagabonding, yellow-curtained sort of fellow" as he was described in Chapter 1. You'll want to keep track of Vinculus. He pops up again later.

We have encountered a real historical person the Duke of Portland. However, it looks like Walter Pole is not historical.

She is also seems to be doing some name dropping, which I suspect I am missing most of. Is the Honorable Mr. Masham an ancestor of the Mistress Masham of Mistress Masham's Repose? The machinations of Susan's mother, Lady Duncombe, with Mr. Drawlight are somewhat reminiscent of some of the plot of Austen's Lady Susan. I like authors to pay their debts to those who went before them, but this book is so big, that its very hard to tell when Clarke is doing that and when it's just a coincidence.

jan 9, 2012, 8:15 pm

So what does "yellow-curtained" mean?

jan 9, 2012, 8:24 pm

In Chapter 5, Mr. Drawlight tells us more "Vinculus -- a tall, ragged scarecrow of a man who has a little booth just outside St. Christopher Le Stocks, all splashed with mud, with a dirty yellow curtain."

This kind of progressive introduction is typical of the Victorian novel, especially Dickens. So you're always paging back saying things like "Wait, wait, didn't Mr. Segundus mention yellow in connection with the street magician he met?"

BTW, what edition do you have? If you've got the paperback we can use page references with each other.

jan 10, 2012, 6:57 am

I have a huge hardcover edition.

Redigerat: jan 11, 2012, 2:49 pm

Chapter 6 - In which Mr Norrell visits a Minister

1. So far the story has been told in third person, or so I thought. Now we are getting "I" statements. I'm very confused.

2. This chapter seemed harder to read than the others for some reason.

3. Ugh, Mr Drawlight is a jerk. Please tell me he gets his comeuppance in the end?

4. Why would the Minister marry someone so sick? Is it just for the money? Why would the girl ever bother to marry him? It's obvious she's dying. And why would the mother want it?

jan 11, 2012, 6:16 pm

1. The novel is written in third person-omniscient narrator, a common Victorian point-of-view, not often used in the 20th century. The "I" is the omniscient narrator sticking their two-cents in. (It's rather inelegant in 3rd person-omniscient to do that, and I'm not sure why Clarke felt it necessary.) (So no one has to ask, most late 20th century English language books, when written in 3rd person, are written in what's called closed-in 3rd person narration where each scene is written as if seen through the eyes and thoughts of only one person.)

2. New characters. Lot's of politics.

3. Not in any dramatic way that I remember

4. Yes, he would marry her just for the money (though he does seem to be trying to have a relationship with her, so he doesn't seem to be a cad.) The girl is ill. She's worth 1000 pounds a year but doesn't get access to it until she marries, so she and her mother are living on whatever Mr. Wintertowne left his wife (which is likely much less than he left for the daughter's dowry.) If she marries, she gets more income and, perhaps, access to better health care, and she relieves her mother of the expense of keeping her (which explains the mother's motive as well).

Also, I have to say, that while it's obvious she has tuberculosis and will die early, it's not clear that she's dying any time soon. People could hang on for years. Even more motivation to get her settled with access to her money.

Idle chit-chat

The Duke of York, mentioned early in the chapter is the Regent's brother. So George III is king, his oldest son, George, is the Prince of Wales and will become the Prince Regent in 1810 when the government decides that George III is too crazy to reign. George III's second son is the Duke of York, just like Elizabeth's second son is the Duke of York.

Venice becomes important later, so you'll want to refer back to the description of the paintings in this chapter later on.

jan 11, 2012, 7:04 pm

some more idle chit chat -- the various sons of George III all gave their family a hard time, running up massive debts and getting involved with unsuitable women. They basically had to be forced to marry, after the Prince of Wales (known familiarly as Prinny) leaves his wife only to have his daughter die in childbirth, leaving only a bunch of middle-aged unmarried men to succeed to the throne. That's how queen victoria was born. Her father, Edward of Kent, was son #4. the Duke of York was childless and while #3, William of Clarence (later William IV) had scads of illegitimate children, had none who were legitimate. And so -- the Victorian age...

jan 12, 2012, 7:26 pm

Chapter 7 - In which Mr Norrell decides to perform a bit of necromancy

No real comments here other than Mr Drawlight continues to be an a-one jerk and I'm surprised at how easily the family agreed to the magic.

jan 12, 2012, 7:46 pm

It was a rather abrupt transformation, wasn't it?

Let's see what happens next.

jan 13, 2012, 11:51 am

Chapter 8 - In which Mr Norrell makes a deal

Uh oh. You just KNOW that nothing good is going to come of that deal. My thought is, "Which thirty-five years will he take? The front half or the back half?" I also wasn't expecting that bit of horror at the end. Took my breath away for a moment.

jan 13, 2012, 2:11 pm

Indeed. Mr. Norrell was right to to hesitate before giving in to calling a fairy, especially considering his naivete about Drawlight.

Hope you're finding the good parts worth slogging through the more difficult parts.

jan 13, 2012, 2:12 pm

Yes. Last chapter was a slog, this one was more interesting. I've gotten a lot further this time and feel I will be able to finish it... slowly.

jan 14, 2012, 2:41 am

Sometimes this writing reminded me of Victor Hugo and Herman Melville, exciting chapters interspersed with snoozers about architecture, landscape, etc.

jan 14, 2012, 6:12 am

I haven't read Hugo or Melville yet so will have to take your word for it!

jan 14, 2012, 11:27 am

Chapter 9 - In which Miss Wintertowne shakes things up

Of course since she is healthy now, she has more energy. Not surprised the wedding is on as soon as possible. You never know when she might go! And poor Sir Pole - not quite what he envisioned, eh?

It's also amusing to see the names Clarke uses for the characters and how they fit.

Mrs Wintertowne is chilly. Sir Pole is a bit of a stick. Drawlight wants all the attention (the light on him), etc.

jan 14, 2012, 12:00 pm

Pole is romantic idealistic hero caught in a trap of political necessity. Rather a symbol of the times, when all the romantic poets were writing about nature and beauty, while the industry that kept them fed and clothed was spewing out some of the world's worst smog.

The names are a lot of fun, and characteristic of the 19th century novels Clarke is imitating.

jan 14, 2012, 6:45 pm

Just "discovered" this thread and from now on will be another lurker. Listened to the book years ago and have wanted to read it in book form since. Now may be a good time! Thanks for this thread!

jan 14, 2012, 9:22 pm

Dickens was another novelist who got creative with names -- utter delight sometimes. For some reason (and not just because he's an amateur philosopher), I always loved the moniker "Mr. Micawber".

jan 15, 2012, 4:46 pm

Chapter 10 - In which the government tries to find something for Mr Norrell to do

Okay, I recognize the names Pitt and Nelson, but they don't mean a whole lot. Can I get a brief description of who they are and what they mean to the British?

jan 15, 2012, 6:15 pm

Nelson was an admiral who won the battle of Trafalgar (which is part of the Napoleonic wars) and died in the process.

Pitt was "Prime Minister" from 1793-1801 and 1804-1807 when he died at age 47. An excellent administrator, he helped raise the money to fight the Napoleonic War.

As you can see, I don't know a whole lot about the politics of this period myself, so I'm hoping some lurking person with more expertise will chime in before I have to go read a whole bunch in the Britannica ...

jan 15, 2012, 11:17 pm

I don't have much to add to that - just to remind people of Trafalgar Square in London with Nelson's Column; the gentleman was obviously a big deal.

Redigerat: jan 15, 2012, 11:26 pm

Here are a couple of images you might enjoy. The first is Nelson's statue on top of his column in Trafalgar Square, and the second is a replica of his ship currently on display.

jan 15, 2012, 11:49 pm

Nelson was a popular celebrity of his time. His victories against Napoleon at sea were significant and the final victory at Trafalgar at which he was killed led directly to Napoleon's defeat. His affair with Emma Hamilton (started during his posting in Naples) was scandalous and contributed to lots of gossip in society as well.

Pitt was originally the youngest Prime Minister ever, in 1783 to 1801--he was only 26 when first taking the post, but it perhaps helped that his father, Pitt the Elder, had also held that post. He became famous not only for leading England in the Napoleonic Wars but also reformed the government to make it more efficient and financially solvent, thus avoiding an English revolution similar to the French Revolution. He virtually created the modern version of the Prime Minister.

So both were very powerful and famous, even lionized, figures in Regency England.

Redigerat: jan 16, 2012, 9:54 am

Thanks, folks!

I've always been confused about how Trafalgar helped win the Napoleonic wars when it took place in 1805, but the wars didn't end until 1814. Checking that out this morning, it looks like Trafalgar cemented Britain's dominance of the sea and prevented Napoleon from invading Britain, thus leaving Britain free to continue opposing Napoleon for the next nine years.

Edited to fix typo.

jan 16, 2012, 1:47 pm

Chapter 11 - In which a bunch of ships appear in many bays

I was a little confused as to the purpose of the ships but it might have been cleared up. It was to prevent the French from blockading the British ships from where they wanted to go? I assume we'll find out why the British ships wanted to go to certain places in the next chapter.

jan 16, 2012, 3:14 pm

This involves the tactics of the Napoleonic Wars, where I am as ignorant as you. The British have spent the week sending ships into the area around Denmark and Prussia. There actually was a naval battle in this time period where the British captured the Danish fleet (see Wikipedia article) but that's all I know.

jan 18, 2012, 7:06 pm

Chapter 12 - In which Mr Norrell becomes famous

I'm hoping that Strange is more likable than Norrell and some of the other characters so far. When does he finally show up?

I found myself doubting the logic of a mermaid coming alive and having knowledge of what she has seen for some reason. It felt off. If the figurehead is an inanimate object how would making it animate give it knowledge of when it was inanimate? But then I suppose the church statuary coming to life is the same thing. Ah well. No biggie.

jan 18, 2012, 7:32 pm

I thought it was more likely for the mermaid (carved from a piece of wood, a once living thing) to become animated than a statue made of stone, which has never been alive (although perhaps there would be fossils of tribolites and other prehistoric creatures compressed in it, depending on the type of stone), but I suppose I pretty much completely suspend my disbelief whenever I read fantasy.

I dislike Norrell intensely, as well as Drawlight and Lascelles and the man with the thistledown hair (has he shown up yet?), but I really like Lady Pole and Arabella Strange, and I love reading about The Raven King and other mystical beings. Jonathan Strange takes after his surname, and he's a bit of a jerk in some ways, but he's not horribly nasty like Norrell and the others I mentioned.

jan 18, 2012, 9:48 pm

I find Mr. Norrell's eventual reaction to Strange oddly endearing.

jan 18, 2012, 11:33 pm

Uh-oh, I don't remember Norrell ever being endearing. Guess I didn't get to that part yet. I look forward to it.

jan 19, 2012, 6:42 am

completely suspend my disbelief whenever I read fantasy

I do, too. So I was surprised it was bothering me. Maybe because I'm reading this so slowly that I'm paying more attention to details? Eh. As I said, no biggie.

jan 19, 2012, 7:51 am

As Storeetllr discussed, it is because Norrell made the stones at York Cathedral talk that the admiral thought he might be able to make the mermaid talk.

In my writer's group we always find that readers get more nit-picky when they are not engaged fully by the plot. I found all this stuff about the Napoleonic war a real snore, but I wanted to find out what happened to Lady Pole, so I just sort of buzzed through the Norell stuff until she shows up again.

Jonathan Strange shows up in the section named after him (see your table of contents). Honestly, I didn't like him much more than I liked Norell. It was the two women mentioned above and a character we haven't met yet that made the book for me.

Redigerat: jan 19, 2012, 7:54 pm

Chapter 13 - In which Mr Norrell is interrupted at home

So what is this yellow curtain stuff? Does it mean the person is blond? Or wears something that is yellow? A cape?

Chapter 14 - In which Laurence Strange gets his comeuppance

Is 900 to 1,000 pounds a year a good amount? What would be the equivalent in current dollars? It doesn't seem like much.

jan 19, 2012, 8:18 pm

I'm behind on my reading. I spent all day today trying to help someone who lost his parents register for college. We were successful, but it didn't leave me time to read. And then you read **TWO** chapters (which, by the way, isn't a bad idea). I'll catch up for tomorrow.

So, without access to the context, I will say that up until this point I had assumed that the fortune teller had a portable booth (much like the 'wizard' in the Kansas part of The Wizard of Oz movie) which had yellow curtains he could draw when telling someone's fortune.

If I remember correctly 900-1000 is an okay liking, but not great. You could have day servants come in and send your kids to school and rent a carriage when you needed one. I think Eliza's friend Charlotte, in Pride and Prejudice, married someone with 1000 a year.

Someone did an elaborate historical monetary equivalence database. I'll look around and see if I can find it, unless one of our lurkers already knows the answer ;)

jan 19, 2012, 8:28 pm

No, the yellow curtain was mentioned when V-whathisname accosted Mr Norrell in home.

jan 20, 2012, 1:36 am

I got the idea that the yellow curtains were a mark of a street magician. Like red lights are a mark of a bawdy house. Just my own idea.

jan 20, 2012, 10:24 am

Okay, after reading the chapter about Vin-whatsit, I'm with Storeetllr. "Yellow curtained" is used like here like "lace curtain Irish". They may or may not have actual lace curtains in their homes and they certainly aren't wearing them in the street, but you know them when you see them. So a yellow curtain magician looks a certain wild way and is pretty sure to tell fortunes, albeit less accurately than Mr. V., who just told you everything that happens in the rest of the novel, if you can to stop now ;)

Here's a monetary conversion website. It says it's the equivalent of about $83,000 a year in today's dollars, which, if Mr. Strange was careful with household expense, which it sounds like he was, would be enough to pay off his debts and get his land back in order.

jan 20, 2012, 10:26 am

Heh, I scanned the lyrics or poem whatever you might call it so nothing was "ruined."

jan 22, 2012, 3:43 pm

Chapter 15 - In which Lady Pole has a dinner

I was confused by Lady Pole first being complimented on her political opinions and then being helpless dealing with the servants. Which is it? Is she smart or vapid?

Chapter 16 - In which Black goes to a dance

I was under the opinion that a butler had very different duties than a valet. Was it common for valets to become butlers? I thought the servant structure was more rigid than that.

How uncommon was it to have a black servant, especially of a higher status?

jan 22, 2012, 10:37 pm

She's smart. Smart enough to know that she has a problem and to ask her husband. I don't think it's so much that she's helpless as she is inexperienced and doesn't want to be taken advantage of.

The butler is in charge of the other male servants and the general household accounts. A valet is a man's personal servant. He can be the same person (like Bunter in the Lord Peter Wimsey stories) or a different person (as in Downton Abbey). The gentleman's personal servant in a single person household (be he called valet or butler) if thought highly of by the gentleman, could easily be made butler of his household after he's married.

I think it was fairly uncommon to have a black servant in England. There were obviously a lot of them on the sugar plantations in the West Indies and in other colonies. Britain started the process of abolition by making slave trade illegal in 1807. This is the only book I can remember reading set in England with a black servant (free or slave). Now our lurkers can pop out and correct me.

jan 22, 2012, 10:41 pm

It was more common during the 18th century - it was 'trendy' for wealthy ladies to keep a black child as a page (errand runner), and sometimes when they grew up they were retained as footmen; although in most cases they would not become butlers, as that involved giving them authority over white people.

Of course, sometimes when they grew up they were discarded and replaced, too.

jan 23, 2012, 7:25 pm

Chapter 17 - In which events become unpleasantly weird

I am so not getting this chapter. Why are things getting weird all over? It doesn't make sense. I can understand Lady Pole getting weird. But why Black? And the shop? And the neighborhood? And all the servants? It all seems a bit much and it's making me cranky.

Chapter 18 - In which Mr Norrell complains to no avail

Ugh. More of Mr Norrell being slimy. And the doctor. Ugh. There is nothing wrong with her other than childish pique? Uh huh. I know it's typical of the time. But ugh. Double ugh.

jan 24, 2012, 7:57 am

Okay, it's time to consider whether you want to cut your losses and throw the book against the wall. Clarke is not writing a book that "makes sense." She's creating that sensawonda, woo-woo feeling of Faerie and magic intruding into rational and staid Regency England. Compared to what's coming Chapter 17 is pretty mild.

Basically by bargaining with the Faerie king for Lady Pole's life, Mr. Norrell has created a door into Faerie which is now intruding into the neighborhood.

Chapter 18: Yes, but the plot must continue no matter how stupid you have to make minor characters look in the process.

Redigerat: jan 24, 2012, 10:38 am

#70 and #71 - reminds me of Dorothy Parker's immortal words: "this is not a book to be tossed lightly aside. It should be thrown with great force."

I am not the book's biggest fan, but I did feel that Strange's appearance perked things up. Maybe hang on until then? I can't recall how long it is from where you are now.

jan 24, 2012, 4:00 pm

I second aulsmith: even after the second read-through when a lot of my confusion cleared up, the book still doesn't make sense. In places, in fact, my brain started to ache a bit as it tried to stretch itself around some of the concepts. But I found it all part of the fun. That's just me, though.

I also second Cynara. If, after Strange and Norrell meet and Strange starts doing magic, you continue to dislike it, then go ahead and throw it against the wall (but only if you're reading a print version, not an eBook ~ lol).

jan 24, 2012, 4:04 pm

I have no problem with books about Faerie and "woo-woo". I read a ton of them. Maybe that's the issue. There has to be a reason for things. The usual rule with the fae is that if you make an agreement with them, they will try to weasel out of it because of the wording. There was nothing in the wording of the agreement that left an opening to the entire world as far as I could tell. Now, if that is how the magic works in this particular world, that's fine - one toehold and that's all that's needed. But it needs to be explained in the world building of a novel. If this has happened (in the lyrics/poetry I skimmed?), I missed it.

No reason so far for me to either toss lightly or throw with great force. I've read and completed MUCH worse books. So far I'd give it a 7 out of 10. It might drop to a 6 if Clarke doesn't do some better world-building and/or explanation.

jan 24, 2012, 6:42 pm

Clarke's not going to give you coherent explanations of how the magic works. She's much more of the school that the Fae are incomprehensible aliens, rather than just tricksters. Also, magic is unpredictable and not really, in the end, controllable.

As long as that's not going to make you feel like you're wasting your time reading the book, let's carry on.

jan 25, 2012, 8:28 am

Idle chatter:

Having decided to carry on, let me point out that in a footnote in Chapter 18, Clarke informed us that we're in a long running alternate history in which the north of England was a separate kingdom well into the middle ages. (or perhaps it was united and then separated again. I don't think she makes any of that clear). The made me remember that she's never used names for any of the royals she's mentioned, just titles. So we don't really know if George III is on the throne going slowly crazy and whether they'll be a regency.

jan 25, 2012, 4:13 pm

I thought it was still a separate kingdom and that the southern kingdom is just governing it as a regent. I could be wrong, and I don't have the book with me (at work) to look at.

jan 25, 2012, 7:48 pm

Going back to Nelson and Pitt...

Nelson was idolized and lionized, although his dalliance with Emma Hamilton later on also scandalized society. Some said that he wouldn't leave Naples, where her husband was ambassador (to a court run by Marie Antoinette's sister, intriguingly) to fight Napoleon's navy because he didn't want to leave her. Of course, Trafalgar changed all that. Incidentally, there's a graveyard on Gibraltar where a lot of those who died at Trafalgar are buried.

Pitt was a bit more controversial a character. Originally a reformer and liberal, some felt he betrayed his ideals during the war against France, as he was responsible for a real crackdown on what today we'd call dissidents. Nonetheless, astonishing figure, brilliant, political genius. I have a massive bio of him by William Hague that I intend to read one day.

Re the income question -- In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf once suggested more than 100 years after the events of this novel that a woman on her own could live adequately on 500 pounds a year (as long as she had a room of her own...)

Young black boys as servants were reasonably common at the very topmost levels of society (nobility); not at all beneath that, at least in England itself. The exception might be gambling dens and luxury houses of ill repute, which would also have them as exotic touches. And a valet could easily become a butler. Among indoor servants, the trajectory would be footman to valet to butler. Of course, there's only one butler per household, and sometimes they preferred to stay being a "gentleman's gentleman".

jan 25, 2012, 11:01 pm

77: That may be, but if it is I missed it.

And the last line of 76 should end And we don't know if there will even be a regency (of the Prince of Walse for his father). Though evidently there could be a regency in the sense of the southern monarch guarding the throne until the north has a legitimate king again.

Storeetllr: If it is a Regency in the north are they awaiting the return of the Raven King or is one of his heirs a minor or what?

Redigerat: jan 26, 2012, 12:55 am

Okay, I think maybe the bit about it still being a separate kingdom being watched over by the south is in a later chapter, so I won't comment further on it now.

jan 27, 2012, 12:01 pm

Sorry, it's been a busy week and this is the first time I've had to get any reading done.

Chapter 19 - In which Black meets up with the Big Guy

1. What is pease porridge?

Chapter 20 - In which Vinculus meets up with a Hat Guy

1. What is fol-de-lol?


Not a lot going on. I imagine it is a bit of set up for whatever will be happening later?

Do we ever find out more about Childermass or does he remain an enigma?

jan 27, 2012, 3:15 pm

"Pease porridge hot/ Pease porridge cold/ Pease porridge in the pot/ Nine days old."

jan 27, 2012, 4:35 pm

Pease porridge is a boiled pea dish, a kind of Northern English version of Indian dhal? Usually mixed with some bacon or ham. Has a kind of pureed texture. typically a lower-class dish; a quick/cheap way of getting some protein.

Fol-de-lol -- either an expression, or it could be a reference to jewelry pieces, like dangling earrings. Depends on the context.

jan 27, 2012, 5:15 pm

Fol-de-lol - from context I would say a random piece of adornment worn by a woman.

Pease porridge - I think we're talking dried peas, something like really thick pea soup.

Although I don't remember what we learn about Childermas, I clearly fell into the same assumption on my second reading that I did on my first, which was that he was Norell's fairy servant. Clearly he's not that. So, I rather suspect that at some point he drops out of the picture without much explanation. (That's how mystery writers get you to suspect the same characters when you read the book again. Nothing too memorable happens to the red herrings, so you can suspect them all over again when you reread the book.)

Chapter 19 is set up. Chapter 20 as I remember is mostly vamping.

jan 29, 2012, 4:05 pm

Chapter 21 - In which the cards are read

I read Tarot cards for awhile so more was probably clear to me than for folks who haven't though I did have to look up La Maison Dieu to figure out it was The Tower. Most people think Death is the "worst" card but really, the worst is The Tower. Death simply means change and could be something as simple as the death of an idea. The Tower is catastrophe.

Chapter 22 - In which we (finally!) meet Jonathan Strange

No real comments here other than I think we finally get to meet some decent people in Jonathan (however bumbling he might seem) and Arabella.

jan 29, 2012, 4:44 pm

Glad you knew about the Tarot and the Tower. Knowing about that makes (some) sense of things that happen later.

I personally like Stephen Black and the Poles, which is what kept me reading through the Norell section.

jan 30, 2012, 6:37 pm

Chapter 23 - In which Shadow Hall is visited

Strange certainly is a changeable fellow.

Chapter 24 - In which Strange and Norrell meet

Speaking of changeable, I wonder why Norrell changed his mind so easily?

jan 31, 2012, 6:01 pm

Sorry to lag so much behind you.

24: Perhaps Norrell saw a glimpse of the heart that he'd buried and longed to get closer to it.

back in 22: I don't think Arabella was actually allowed to write to Strange on the occasion of his father's death, since they aren't engaged. Unengaged women never write to men who aren't relatives in Jane Austen.

23: It's actually a good thing Strange is flexible. Otherwise, I doubt he would have gotten very far with magic, since he seems to be making most of it up as he goes along.

feb 1, 2012, 3:35 pm

Chapter 25 - In which Mr Strange begins his schooling

I find the length of the footnotes amusing.

Chapter 26 - In which Mr Black receives gifts

I'm still waiting to find out what people like about Mr Black. He feels like too much of a victim for my tastes. Perhaps that changes later in the book?

Redigerat: feb 1, 2012, 7:34 pm

26: I tend to be very sympathetic to victims who keep plugging on with life. However, Black does change later in the book.

I'm fond of made-up footnotes.

feb 3, 2012, 5:25 pm

Chapter 27 - In which Mrs Strange meets Lady Pole

Again, I was amused. This time at the people who would rather see their relatives than Napoleon.

Chapter 28 - In which Mr Norrell arranges for Mr Strange to leave England

Oooh, I just want to smack Mr Norrell. He's a Scrooge!

Of all the characters, I like Arabella the best so far.

feb 6, 2012, 2:42 pm

Chapter 29 - In which Mr Strange goes to Portugal

"...carry Napoleon in their bellies" - is this a real expression or something Clarke made up?

Chapter 30 - In which Childermass looks for a book

What is a grange?

feb 6, 2012, 3:18 pm

In the Midwest, at least, a grange is a building that is for a co-op or association of farmers. Often a barn-like building.

feb 6, 2012, 5:18 pm

Chapter 29: I don't know, but I'll see if I can find out. (Thank you for not asking a lot of questions about Wellington in Portugal, because I have no idea.)

Chapter 30: A grange is a modest country estate, consisting of the house and the farm buildings. In older usage it was a barn. Ronincats grange comes from Grange Hall which were the buildings built by the local Granger Movement group (a Grange), which as she said is a cooperative for farmers. I suspect Grange Halls look like barns because they were built by people who knew how to build barns.

I can see why you like Arabella. I'd forgotten how congenial she is. She also appears in The Ladies of Grace Adieu. I don't know how big a part she plays, because when I started reading it, I got behind you in Strange and Norrell and had to put it down to catch up.

Idle chatter:

On bells: I stayed in the Harley St. area of London 40 years ago, and the St. Marybebone bells rang the hours, even at night. I got used to them after a week, but when I had jet lag I didn't appreciate knowing it was 2 am!

On Black: I think I like the way he handles even the toughest situation, like the Faerie King about to summon the King of England to hand over a crown, in such a true Jeeves like manner. Perhaps we shouldn't bother the old gentleman ...

feb 7, 2012, 2:41 am

What's the broader context of the quote, Morphy? It's not automatically familiar, but...

feb 7, 2012, 6:23 am

>95 Chatterbox: It was something like "...carry Napoleon in their bellies as we carry Wellington in our hearts."

feb 7, 2012, 11:53 am

95-96: I'm thinking (haven't checked it out yet) that it's some French idiom which translates as "carry in the belly" but actually means something like "carry in our hearts". If someone out there knows enough French to confirm or deny this, I'd appreciate it (and so would Morphidae!)

Redigerat: feb 7, 2012, 4:27 pm

I copied this from the internet as I don't have my book with me:

"How to describe Lord Wellington? How can such a thing be necessary or even possible? His face is everywhere one looks – a cheap print upon the wall the coaching inn – a much more elaborate one, embellished with flags and rums, at the top of the Assembly-room staircase. Nowadays no young lady of average romantic feeling will reach the age of seventeen without purchasing at least one picture of him. She will think a long, aquiline nose infinitely preferable to a short, stubby one and consider it the worst misfortune of her life that he is married already. To make up for it she fully intends to name her first-born son, Arthur. Nor is she alone in her devotion. Her younger brothers and sisters are every bit as fanatical. The handsomest toy soldier in an English nursery is always called Wellington and has more adventures than the rest of the toy box put together. Every schoolboy impersonates Wellington at least once a week, and so do his younger sisters. Wellington embodies every English virtue. He is Englishness carried to perfection. If the French carry Napoleon in their bellies (which apparently they do), then we carry Wellington in our hearts."
P. 373 (emphasis added)

ETA that I couldn't find anything about the term by Googling, but my own interpretation was that it is a slur on the French who place the same value on food (their bellies, so to speak) as the English do on love of England. Just my own opinion, with no basis in fact.

feb 7, 2012, 4:59 pm

I think it may be a reference to Napoleon's comment that, "An army marches on its stomach" - the English turning that into a jeer against the French (all stomach, no heart).

feb 7, 2012, 5:21 pm

Oh, good one lyzard! I'd forgotten that Napoleon said that.

feb 8, 2012, 8:28 am

99: That makes sense! (A search of my French dictionary provided no useful idioms.)

Morphidae: I'm going to have a (routine) colonoscopy tomorrow, so I'll probably be offline for 24 hours or so (If I am online, between the no food and the drugs, you shouldn't trust anything I say.)

feb 8, 2012, 7:45 pm

Chapter 31 - In which Mr Strange performs magic for Lord Wellington

Chapter 32 - In which Mr Strange meets the mad king

Nothing much to comment on. Reading along...

feb 10, 2012, 9:07 am

Idle Chatter:

The description in Chaper 32 of Windsor is very much the way it struck me when I went there with the exception that I didn't think St. George's Chapel looked that out of place. By the way, it's a chapel because it is there to perform services for the family that owns the castle. A church performs services for all the people in the surrounding area and a cathedral is the seat of a bishop or archbishop.

Colonoscopy was negative. Don't have to do another for 5 years. Yeah!

feb 10, 2012, 1:26 pm

Yay! Glad to hear it. Those things are not the most fun in the universe.

Redigerat: feb 10, 2012, 8:00 pm

Liz, that sounds right to me. There is a phrase of sorts about feeling things "dans le ventre", and if I recall correctly, it could equate to the English phrase in meaning. But the ventre is the broad chest area, stomach, etc., not just belly in the sense of digestive organs.

The other context could be carrying them in their gut, as in having an instinctive loyalty; the distinction then is being made that being carried in the heart is somehow more elevated while being no less intense.

Colonoscopies are dire. That said, friend of mine says it's the best 20 minutes of sleep he gets a year. *eyes roll* My sleeping ain't that bad yet...

feb 14, 2012, 5:25 pm

Chapter 33 - In which Mr Strange saves the King from enchantment

What is a turbot?

Is anyone following this thread know about English fairy tales? Are the tales told in JS & MN made up by Clarke or are they based on real fairy tales?

Chapter 34 - In which Mr Black doesn't want to buy a carpet

I really don't get the thistle-haired man. I suppose that is the point but it makes the story confusing.

Redigerat: feb 14, 2012, 5:39 pm

I think a turbot is a kind of fish. Not having the book in front of me, though, and not knowing the context, I can only hope that makes sense (not that everything in this book makes sense, at least not the first time around). (Or even the second time around. Still and all, it's one of my top-100 favorite books, and it did resolve most of the confusion by the end for me.)

ETA one of my favorite parts of the book is the refrain "the thistle-haired man." For months after I finished it the first time, that phrase would pop into my head at random times. That's not to say I liked the character himself. Rather, I thought he was evil and nasty, but I loved hearing that phrase for some reason.

feb 14, 2012, 5:44 pm

A turbot is a flat fish like a flounder. Turbot was commonly served as the fish course at dinner parties at the time.

feb 14, 2012, 5:51 pm

A turbot was seen as an up-market kind of fish (vs cod or something like that) For instance, one dish was turbot in champagne sauce.

Am not sure about what fairy tales these are, so can't help you there.

feb 15, 2012, 9:50 am

She's making up the fairy tales, though some of them are sly references to English fairy tales. (I forgot to mark it, but there was a reference to the True Thomas tales, except that Thomas had a fairy servant instead of him being the fairy's lover.)

There is some method to the "thistle-haired man's" craziness that will become clear, though I have to say that he still choosing very weird ways of going about his business. Trying to abduct the King of England was very odd.

feb 16, 2012, 10:58 am

Chapter 35 - In which mirrors abound

Chapter 26 - In which the Strange marriage is strained

Not much to talk about. Reading on...

feb 17, 2012, 12:43 pm

Idle chatter:

Chapter 36 has a sly reference to Jane Austen's Mansfield Park that I missed the first time I read the book.

feb 21, 2012, 2:56 pm

Having read recently Brian Froud's book, Faeries, really helped me understand references to the fae in many books, this one, as well as Jim Butcher's. The stories are the author's own, but the personalities of the fae are true to the old tales.

Redigerat: feb 27, 2012, 5:03 pm

Sorry I've been so long in continuing. I've been sick and haven't been in the mood for this particular book. I'm back on track now though!

Chapter 37 - In which the repercussions of Drawlight's actions come to light

Chapter 38 - In which Strange writes a scathing review

1. Was it common to put proper names in all caps like that in journals?

2. What is an Aureate magician?

feb 27, 2012, 7:49 pm

1. Looking at snippets of the Edinburgh Review on Google Books, I didn't see proper names in all caps, so I'm not sure what she's imitating here.

2. The Aureate magicians are the Golden Age magicians (taken from the Latin word for gold, which is "aurum"). The Golden Age, when Magicians walked in Faerie and presumably the Raven King was still alive, ended with Martin Pale.

It was followed by the Silver Age, featuring the Argentine Magicians (from the Latin word for silver "argentum")

Glad you're feeling better.

feb 28, 2012, 3:45 pm

Chapter 39 - In which Strange and Norrell part ways

1. What is a sarsenet?

Chapter 40 - In which Strange writes a scathing review

1. What is a patissier? a sous-patissier?

2. What is a cuirassier?

2. What was it that Strange did to the cuirassier and his horse - the Animam Evocare?

feb 28, 2012, 4:30 pm

How did I miss all those words???? I just read the darn book and don't remember any of them. Or the Animam Evocare. Was I asleep when I read it? Sheesh! I'm going to have to reread it again after you finish, Morphy, using this thread to keep track so I don't miss so much!!!

feb 28, 2012, 4:52 pm

Sarsenet (or sarcenet) is a silk-based material, originally imported from Italy; "a sarsenet" is a gown made from this material.

I am barging in here purely because I had the exact same question from Madeline re: Northanger Abbey. :)

Carry on!

feb 28, 2012, 6:20 pm

A patissier is a pastry chef.

As for the cuirassier:

feb 29, 2012, 12:00 pm

Chapter 41 - In which Starecross almost becomes a school for magicians

1. I like this: "Houses, like people, are apt to become rather eccentric if left too much on their own..."

2. What is sal volatile?

Chapter 42 - In which a large piece of wood is obtained

1. What is a flaughter? a rutter? a tusker?

feb 29, 2012, 3:34 pm

Sal volatile is smelling salts -- when crushed, the ammonium would wake swooning folks up with a big start!

A tusker -- well, it's one way to refer to an adult male elephant. Not sure of any other applications.

A flaughter is something that is used to cut peat in even squares.

Rutter? No idea....

feb 29, 2012, 6:30 pm

Wow, you're really making up for lost time here. I'm going to have to read faster.

Many thanks to the lurkers for helping out!

Chapter 40

A sous-patissier is the under-pastry chef. In this case the baker's assistant.

Strange pulls the life-forces out of the cuirassier and his horse. Animam (soul) Evocare (evoke, call forth)

Chapter 42

A rutter is a medieval term for an atlas designed to help sailors and harbor masters. I suspect they were replaced by more up-to-date navigation charts. However, I'm not that far in the re-reading, so if that doesn't fit the context I'll look into it further tomorrow.

mar 1, 2012, 8:40 am

Tusker, rutter, flaughter.

It's pretty clear from context that they're all tools used to dig in bogs. However, except for flaughter, none of them are in my abridged OED as such. The OED lists tusker as an animal with tusks and a rutter as an 18th century cavalryman. The definition of "rutter" above is from the Random House unabridged. OED gives that definition to the word "ruttier".

Idle chatter: I think maybe she got the idea of moving Brussels from Eric Flint's Assiti Shards series. Of course, it could just be coincidence.

mar 4, 2012, 2:39 pm

And now I have bronchitis. I am SO tired of being sick. It's been almost a month!

Chapter 43 - In which Mrs Strange goes missing

Chapter 42 - In which Mrs Strange returns

No comments. Reading on!

mar 4, 2012, 7:29 pm

Well reading about people sloshing around in bogs and wandering around Shropshire lightly clad in the dead of winter probably isn't doing you any good. But if you read on, we get to Italy ... eventually.

mar 7, 2012, 1:14 pm

Heading off to a specialist today who will hopefully get me better soon!

Chapter 45 - In which Mr Strange writes about the Raven King

Chapter 46 - In which Childermass is injured

I hope that there is a decent resolution to all this and some questions get answered. Not everything, but this book is so wandering and lyrical that I wonder if it will end the same way. I don't have to have ALL the answers, but some would be nice.

Redigerat: mar 7, 2012, 2:28 pm

You'll get some, but it won't be a neat package. On this second reading I keep finding that I've forgotten large sections and thought things went differently than they do, so, clearly whatever the resolutions, some of them aren't very memorable.

PS: Hope the specialist helps!

mar 8, 2012, 9:05 pm

Lurking this thread with interest (having just finished the book) and enjoying the nuance and illuminations.
Hope you get well soon Morphidae!

mar 12, 2012, 3:34 pm

Chapter 47 - In which Black loses his horse

I just can't connect with Black. He doesn't even react to losing his horse.

Chapter 48 - In which they go upstairs to look at some etchings

How... foreboding.

mar 12, 2012, 6:28 pm

Well, I'm very glad you like Arabelle Strange, otherwise I think you'd find the book rather "friendless" (I tend to think of characters in books in terms of the people in them I'd like as friends. If a book doesn't have at least one potential "friend" I usually won't finish it.)

mar 13, 2012, 7:14 am

>130 aulsmith: Agreed. I call it having a "likeable" character. Though I rather like Jonathan Strange for the most part.

mar 13, 2012, 9:36 am

He does have some endearing qualities that I forgot after the first reading. (One of them is NOT his belief that his wife is dead, despite the evidence to the contrary puddling on his foyer floor.)

mar 15, 2012, 7:34 pm

Chapter 49 - In which Strange considers consorting with faires

Chapter 48 - In which Strange goes abroad and books go strange

Strange meeting up with Byron, Shelley, et al. made me smile. Is Manfred a real Byron piece?

mar 15, 2012, 10:34 pm

Yup. I was supposed to read it for the English Romantics in college. Up until "Manfred" we'd been reading short poems, so I got in the habit of reading the homework on the bus on the way to class. Then the morning came when Manfred was the assignment. It's huge. I barely got into the first section. Fortunately it was the end of the Vietnam Era and just coming to class instead of going to a demonstration was considered A-level work. So unfortuanately all I know about Manfred is that he has black hair and black eyes and broods a lot (hence the "typical Byronic hero").

Maybe when Cynara's done with Shakespeare, she can do Byron for us. ;)

Redigerat: mar 16, 2012, 9:28 am

{Snorts.}. Oh, those goofy romantics.

mar 19, 2012, 4:01 pm

Chapter 51 - In which Strange resides in Venice

What is a campo?

Chapter 52 - In which the Greysteels visit a cat lady

Sad but scary lady.


I'm going to try and push through to finish the book this month so I might be reading a bit faster than I have been.

mar 20, 2012, 9:14 am

A campo is a place where roads come together and form a square. Usually there is a church in it and the campo and the neighborhood around it are named after the church.

However, the image this conjures up for folks who grew up in the US is completely wrong. We see a nice little park, maybe with a gazebo with a big building set attractively on one side of the park. The Venice campos are not like that at all.

If you look at a map of Venice you'll see that it looks like a jigsaw puzzle with the canals being the lines between the pieces. Every place a road crosses a canal, there is a bridge with steps up one side of it and down the other. Because of this, Venice has almost no wheeled traffic except for some very weird grocery carts that have stair assists attached. So, Venice, unlike other European cities with medieval roots, never had to widen it's streets. Walking in Venice (for someone used to the US) is like being trapped in a very narrow alley, claustropobically surrounded by ancient white plaster/cement buildings and thinking you will never find the B&B again, when suddenly there is a gleam of light ahead and you emerge into a campo. It's as if your street and another one are having a fight and the buildings around them had stepped back so they don't get hurt. The campo has a name; it is on your map; you can see the sky and assure yourself that you are going in the right direction.

You look at the church, which is usually stuffed in with a lot of other buildlngs, not set off in any architecturally fancy way. You consult the guide book, find out it has 17 paintings by famous artists. You consult your stomach and find out it's near lunch time. So you plunge down another street, hopefully in the direction of the B&B and wonder if you'll ever be able to find that campo again on purpose.

(Sorry I've been reading too much Henry Adams lately)

The reading plans sounds good. I'll just plunge ahead and finish the book off.

LURKERS: If any of you have an electronic text of the books, could you search for Greysteel? I believe we met someone named Greysteel earlier in the book, but I can't find it and Ms. Clarke has not seen fit to drop a hint (perhaps because I'm misremembering and there is no hint to drop.

Idle chatter: There are many scary, dotty old people in this book.

mar 20, 2012, 9:35 am

The name Greysteel first occurs in Chapter 50: The History and Practice of English Magic, so I'm afraid you are misremembering!

mar 20, 2012, 11:15 am

138: Thank you! I misremember a lot. E-books are very handy for that, if unhandy for other things (like skipping ahead).

mar 20, 2012, 12:04 pm

Yes, having a Kindle has changed my reading style and what I read (all those free classics!). I have now read a lot of books without reading the last page well before I really got to it, which was a habit with print books.

mar 20, 2012, 7:59 pm

Chapter 53 - In which Strange goes a tad mad

Chapter 54 - In which Strange is given a mystery

Finally feel like we are getting some plot movement. Now that we are 4/5 of the way through the book. Ha!

How could Miss Greysteel know so much about Strange? Have they been that chatty?

mar 21, 2012, 7:44 am

Well, the action is moving ... whether the plot is moving remains to be seen.

Evidently Aunt Greysteel has been letting her niece and Mr. Strange lag somewhat behind as the company walks around Venice. Shocking!

mar 21, 2012, 6:56 pm

Chapter 55 - In which Strange finds Fairie

Chapter 54 - In which a cloud falls over Venice

More action. Whoo hoo! The excitement may never end.

mar 22, 2012, 3:45 pm

One of these days I'll get the chapter numbers correct.

Chapter 57 - In which Strange writes some letters

Chapter 58 - In which the letters fall into the wrong hands

Ooooh, I so dislike Norrell and Lascelles right now! Jerks.

mar 23, 2012, 12:12 pm

In some senses, Norrell and Lascelles are under the same enchantment as Strange and are bound to help the thistle-haired man make Strange friendless. However, they are particularly good tools for the Fairy King since they are inclined to want Strange friendless to begin with.

Lurkers: If I had been a good student and read Manfred when I was told to, I might be able to tell Morphy fascinating parallels between it and the next couple of chapters. But since I didn't, I can't. So if any of you have insights, please chime in as appropriate.

mar 26, 2012, 12:14 pm

Chapter 59 - In which Drawlight nearly drowns

Chapter 60 - In which Miss Greysteel gains a mirror

You warned me but it's still annoying. Nothing is ever quite clear in this book. It's all told in roundabout ways. But we are in the home stretch. Just nine more chapters! Something is bound to happen soon, eh? Hah!

mar 27, 2012, 8:03 am

If you want, you could post all the things you want the author to finish up in the the next nine chapters and we can see how well she does. I promise not to tell you ahead of time which ones get resolved and which ones don't.

mar 27, 2012, 8:12 am

I'd love to read that.

mar 27, 2012, 1:39 pm

Who is the thistle-haired man? Why is he such a freak?

Whose side is Childermass really on?

Do Mrs Strange and Lady Pole escape? How?

Who gets their comeuppance? Drawlight? Lascelles? Norrell?

Will Stephen Black be heroic and "beat" the thistle-haired man?

Who are the people mentioned in the prophecy? Does it come true?

What happens to Vinculus? Jonathan Segundus?

Does Strange confront Norrell about what he did to Lady Pole? How does Norrell respond?

Why does Norrell hide his dealings with the Fae?

Does Strange get his book published? (Well, obviously so from the footnotes, but how?)

Will Strange escape that black fog?

That's all I can think of at the moment. Heh.

mar 29, 2012, 7:20 pm

Chapter 61 - In which England gets its mojo back

Chapter 62 - In which Drawlight gets his comeuppance

Chapter 63 - In which Childermass loses his job

I'm pondering just finishing this up in a final push. There is so much to be resolved!

mar 29, 2012, 9:33 pm

Push on. I just finished it this evening. More of it gets resolved than I remembered, but some of your questions will not be answered. Sigh.

Redigerat: apr 2, 2012, 6:44 am

Chapters 64 - 69 In which Morphy finishes the book

Well, let's look at my list... SPOILERS ABOUND

Who is the thistle-haired man? Why is he such a freak?
Never really find out, do we?

Whose side is Childermass really on?
Both. Heh. That wasn't expected.

Do Mrs Strange and Lady Pole escape? How?
Yes! Though I was surprised at how the Stranges didn't really end up back together. I thought that was why he was fighting so hard to get her out of Faerie?

Who gets their comeuppance? Drawlight? Lascelles? Norrell?
Drawlight, yep. Lascelles, yep, and very apropos, too. Norrell, not really.

Will Stephen Black be heroic and "beat" the thistle-haired man?
Well, yes. But it seemed rather accidental than something he did on purpose after a firm decision.

Who are the people mentioned in the prophecy? Does it come true?
Yes, but only because Strange and Norrell messed up!

What happens to Vinculus? Jonathan Segundus?
Vinculus, very odd. Segundus just sort of fades away into the story.

Does Strange confront Norrell about what he did to Lady Pole? How does Norrell respond?
How these two end up being bedfellows, I just don't get - from mortal enemies to "book buddies."

Why does Norrell hide his dealings with the Fae?
No real answer here.

Does Strange get his book published? (Well, obviously so from the footnotes, but how?)
Nor here.

Will Strange escape that black fog?
Guess not unless there is another book. But it seems unlikely. They certainly aren't working very hard toward it which confuses me.

apr 2, 2012, 9:58 am

So, overall, did you think the time you spent on it was worthwhile even though it's not your kind of book? Would you read something like it again?

Not only is the end very unsatisfying, but it's also almost completely unmemorable. I led you astray several times by things I thought I remembered happening, that really didn't. (As a test, I asked my husband about what he remembered about the end, and he really didn't remember it any better than I did.)

With the story so strung out, you did miss what was going on with the Thistle-haired Man. He is one of the kings of Faerie and he seems to be under some kind of compulsion to find his own replacement, though he doesn't know that. So he knows that Stephen Black will be a king, but he doesn't realize he will be his own replacement. Being of the UnSeelie Court (though Clarke never uses that terminology) he's really rather wicked in Human terms, without really grasping it at all.

I assume you know the Golden Bough myth? That's what Clarke uses to give Lascelles his comeuppance, which I found very confusing. It's a hero myth at base and Lascelles wasn't ever even remotely heroic.

I think we'll be spared a sequel. It's been 8 years and, as far as I can tell, she hasn't written anything else. (The Ladies of Grace Adieu is clearly footnotes they made her take out of this tome) So she's most likely a one-book author. (Getting instant fame for your first book is not the best thing for a writer. She probably spent most of her life fooling around with the ideas that went into this book. How is she ever going to be able to do as well or better?)

My judgement on the second reading is the same as on my first. Interesting world-building, interesting characters, but no real story -- which is generally true of books that are nominated for the Booker Prize and I've learned to avoid them. I really want to be told a story, not just hang out in a place. As an author I got a lot out of seeing you work your way through the book. You also pointed out Strange's good points, so now I like him more than I did (though I still find his lack of emotional involvement with his wife rather pitiable. She's one of the smartest people in the book.)

Redigerat: apr 2, 2012, 2:58 pm

I found it worthwhile. I don't finish books that aren't. Also, I like saying, "I did it!" However, like with China Mieville, I doubt I'll read anything else by her. I need some story in my story.

I'm not familiar with the Golden Bough myth under that name, but I am familiar with the myth of "whoever kills the guard has to take the position." I like that he got stuck with it and found it a fitting end for him.

Of the six Bookers I've read, I loved one (The Remains of the Day,) liked three (The Blind Assassin, Life of Pi, The White Tiger,) and been unable to complete two (Wolf Hall, The God of Small Things.)

apr 2, 2012, 8:33 pm

In the Golden Bough the King becomes king by killing the old king (who is now too frail/mad to do his job well -- if there's no new king, spring won't come). So killing the king is a heroic act to ensure the survival of the seasons/human beings/etc. (even though it means ultimately that you'll get too old for the job and have to be replaced.) I haven't seen it done with guards. That would make it less heroic. And, after all, he did guard Norrell, for better or worse.

I got to page 6 of The God of Small Things. Oh well, plenty of books out there for the likes of us.

Unless you or the lurkers have any final comments, I declare this tutored read completed. Go have fun with Midsummer Night's Dream. I think you'll find the view of Faerie much more fun.

apr 3, 2012, 8:29 am

I think your wrap-ups captured why I was rather "meh" over the book when it came out, despite having gone into it expecting to love it.