30 Days of Books! Day one…
Posted by Jen Moore
I’ve seen other people doing 30 days of television, or 30 days of Doctor Who, and I finally discovered the 30 days of books! I have to say, though, this meme is heavily weighted toward “favorite” things, and I’m bad at having favorite books. I read too much. So instead I’ve tried to avoid duplicating books and made some small attempt at breadth, although most of them turned out to be fantasy novels anyway. (I swear I do read other things. I just really, really like good fantasy.)
Day 01 – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)
It’s not a series, but when reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke, I could always go on reading it forever. It doesn’t help that by the end, everyone has undergone such massive changes in personality and/or circumstance that what happens next is by no means clear.
Jonathan Strange is one of those books you can’t recommend wholeheartedly to just anyone; it’s a kind of specialized taste. It’s a bit like Jane Austen with magic. The magic, in fact, has a very Austen-like sensibility to it. It’s fantasy in the Hope Mirlees tradition, which is quite an achievement, since as far as I can tell that tradition consists of Hope Mirlees and Susannah Clarke. Picture Mr Bingley, exactly as he is but with the ability to do magic, and you might get close.
It’s also a book set during a war, though, and and sometimes in a war. The war also appears in an entirely period sensibility — remember, of course, that General Wellington held a dinner party the night before Waterloo. And then the army went out to get slaughtered. Scenes of violence in this book are few and far between, but it’s their very rarity that makes them so powerful.
It’s also full of detail, so richly and appropriately in period and with such a wonderfully realized magical world that it’s easy to forget, sometimes, that this is not really part of the history of the Napoleonic Wars. (After all, surely the reason Wellington’s army was able to move so much faster than Bonaparte’s was that they had a magician conjuring up Roman roads for them everywhere?)
Jonathan Strange is a book you can drown in, and I always do. I remember the winter scenes most vividly, so I tend to read it in the winter, and every year I wish there were more. (There is a short story collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and the titular story is indeed in the same universe as Jonathan Strange, if you find you’ve developed the same craving I have.)