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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Reading Group Guide

This guide provides an overview and discussion points for "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke, a novel set in nineteenth-century England, where magic is reawakened by two contrasting magicians, Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Their journey from collaboration to rivalry explores themes of power, the nature of magic, and the impact of history.

In Brief

  • Setting: Nineteenth-century England, a period when belief in practical magic has faded.
  • Main Characters: Mr Norrell, a reclusive magician who aims to bring back English magic, and Jonathan Strange, his pupil, who is charismatic but drawn to dangerous magic.
  • Plot: The story revolves around the revival of English magic by Mr Norrell and the ensuing partnership and rivalry with Jonathan Strange, against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars.

In Detail

  • The Raven King: A legendary figure in the history of English magic, representing the merging of fairy wisdom and human reason.
  • Magic's Role: Magic is reintroduced to England by Mr Norrell, leading to a partnership with Strange that dazzles the country. Their differing views on magic and its use lead to a deep-seated rivalry.
  • Themes: The novel explores the limits of knowledge and power, the dangers of obsession, and the clash between reason and imagination.

Discussion Questions

  1. Magic and Morality: How do Norrell and Strange's views on magic reflect their personal values and the broader societal attitudes of their time?
  2. Historical Integration: Discuss how Clarke integrates real historical events with the magical world she creates. Does this blending add depth to the story?
  3. Character Development: How do the characters of Strange and Norrell evolve throughout the novel? What drives their transformation?

Further Reading

  • Recommendations include classics and modern works that either complement the themes of "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" or offer contrasting views on magic and history.


  • For more insights and discussion points, visit the official website for "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" at www.jonathanstrange.com.

This reading guide aims to enrich your understanding and appreciation of the novel, offering avenues for discussion on its complex themes and historical backdrop.