Richard Jones' Log: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
I just finished Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's her first novel, and it's well worth it. It weighs in at 782 pages and has taken me several weeks to read.
It follows the resurgence of English Magic in an alternate-history England around the turn of the 19th century -- in particular two magicians of quite different character. As a period novel, it is quite faithful to the times (as I understand them) and the whole book has an air of authenticity.
Even though it was almost 800 pages, I never found it to be slow or dull. In fact, around the time my bookmark was about a novel's-width from the end (about 2/3 of the thickness of the book) I could feel the pace quickening a little and an end coming on. Then, even though the last 200-250 pages could be considered the final act, it was still a great read.
The main characters exhibited a comfortable blend of complexity and growth through the novel. The supporting cast added flavour and was kept a reasonable size so was never difficult to keep track of. The plethora of footnotes (some of which spanned pages) also added colour and authenticity by expanding on little stories mentioned in passing by the characters, or by making references to other, fictional works.