Post by Mark T. Locker.
Way back in 2004, debut novelist Susanna Clarke introduced us to the world of 19th-century English magic in the wonderfully long and dense and fantastic novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And now, 11 years later, the BBC has finally graced us with a series based very faithfully on the nearly 800-page novel.
The world of English magic in the 19th century is a magical world vastly different than the one we imagine. While magic indeed existed and had been practiced widely in the past, no proper gentleman would deign to do such a thing now. This did not mean, however, that there were no magicians’ societies. On the contrary many learned men were members of such societies. However, these were devoted to the study and appreciation of magic. Never for the practice!
There was one man who continued to practice in his deeply secluded and book-laden home. This man was Mr. Norrell. Once discovered, he became something of a celebrity, despite his rather unpleasant demeanor. When he takes on an apprentice, one Jonathan Strange, he is greatly troubled to realize this man’s intuitive skills far outmatch Mr. Norrell’s highly academic approach.
The BBC television series has released seven episodes. So far, they have remained very true to the story and the tone of the original book. Filled with awesome displays of magic, lots of repressed Victorian-style drama and strange, mysterious, dark forces, this series has quickly become my favorite bedtime watching. It’s captivating enough to keep me awake but not too flashy to keep me up past by bedtime trying to quiet my brain. Highly recommended for lovers of period pieces, miniseries, and awesomely unique approaches to magic.