Hello gentle reader,
if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may know I love Historical Fantasy, a genre I both read and write. The first book that I loved in this genre is JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL by Susanna Clarke, which was published in 2004.
I was therefore utterly delighted when I found out the BBC was adapting the book into a mini-series. So far two episodes have aired in the UK, and it’s set to premiere in the US in June.
My expectations were understandably quite high before watching the first episode, but I’m happy to report I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. This is a great example of a TV show that lives up to the standards of plot and setting set by the book it’s based on.
JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL is set in an alternate England during the Napoleonic Wars. Although magic is widely believed in, no magician has been able to cast a spell since the Raven King is said to have left the country. Magical studies have become theoretical, until Mr Norrell (played by Eddie Marsan) comes along: a recluse gentleman living in Yorkshire, he becomes the first magician to perform magic in 300 years. Suddenly famous, he moves to London in order to help in the war against France. Meanwhile, another gentleman named Jonathan Strange (played by Bertie Carvel), fortuitously discovers he can cast spells as well. He then proceeds to meet Mr Norrell, and asks him to become his apprentice.
All sorts of shenanigans ensue, involving a mysterious Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair, fairies, dreamlike-balls, crows, odd hats, and the Duke of Wellington.
Clarke’s book is long (almost 800 pages!) and extremely rich and complex. Turning it into a mini-series can’t have been an easy task, yet the BBC manages it superbly. The settings are gorgeous, the cast spot-on, the plot shortened yet never simplified.
It’s magical, dark and creepy, but also funny and delightful. I recommend it!
And if you need further convincing, here is the trailer:
Have you read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell? Have you watched the BBC mini-series? What did you think?
Feel free to leave me a comment below!