Friday, September 30, 2005

I love this book

The one I am reading that is -Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I think it is not for everyone but it is definitely my kind of book. The humour is subtle, almost hidden, so light you might miss it. I find it hard to describe. It is like a shadow that flits in and out of the narrative. I find the writing to be similar to books written in the 1800's and I expect the author meant to have this effect. She succeeds very well. Mr Norell is revivng magic in England but he is very jealous of his position. Jonathan Strange is another magician of talent who becomes his protege but it appears that the student might outdo the teacher (they eventually they have a falling out). A synopsis, however lengthy, couldn't give you as much of the flavour of the book as can an excerpt. So I will copy a segment -abridged slightly- from about the middle of the book at a point in the story where Jonathan Strange is helping Wellington fight Napoleon.

Strange was in some anxiety lest Mr,. Norrell get to hear of the magic he had done at the ruined church at Flores de Avila . He made no comment of it in his own letters and he begged Lord Wellington to leave it out of his dispatches.

Oh, very well” said his lordship. Lord Wellington was not in any case particularly fond of writing about magic. He disliked having to deal with anything he did not understand extremely well. “But it will do very little good,” he pointed out. “Every man that has written a letter home in the last five days will have given his friends a very full account of it.”

“I know, “ said Strange, uncomfortably, “but the men always exaggerate what I do and perhaps by the time people in England have made allowances for the usual embellishments it will not appear so very remarkable. They will merely imagine that I healed some Neapolitans that were wounded or something of that sort.”

The raising of the seventeen dead Neapolitans was a good example of the sort of problem faced by Strange in the latter half of the war. Like the Ministers before him, Lord Wellington was becoming more accustomed to using magic to achieve his ends and he demanded increasingly elaborate spells from his magician. However, unlike the Ministers, Wellington had very little time or inclination for listening to long explanations of why a thing was not possible. After all he regularly demanded the impossible of his engineers, his generals and his officers and he saw no reason to make an exception of his magician.....

In the early summer of 1813 Strange again performed a sort of magic that had not been done since the days of the Raven King: he moved a river...The new position of the river so baffled the French that several French companies when ordered to march north, went in entirely the wrong direction so convinced were they that the direction away from the river must be north....Lord Wellington later remarked cheerfully to General Picton that there was nothing so wearing for troops and horses as constant marching about and that in future he thought it would be better to keep them all standing still while Mr. Strange moved Spain about like a carpet beneath them. Meanwhile the Spanish Regency Council in Cadiz became rather alarmed at this development and began to wonder whether, when they regained their country from the French, they would recognize it.They complained to the Foreign Secretary ( which many people thought ungrateful). The Foreign Secretary persuaded Strange to write the Regency Council a letter promising that after the war he would replace the river in its original position...

pp 334 335

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Friday, September 16, 2005


I have been getting comment spam so I have had to delete some of the comments on some of my posts.

I have changed my settings to set up obstacles to these so and so people who use blogs for their own purposes. Commenters will have to use word verification to post a comment. This repetition of a randomly generated word requires a human and should stop those who use automatic means to spam the blog. If that doesn't work I will have to switch it to allow only registered users to comment. I have had this problem on my other blogs too and it is extremely annoying.

Sons of Fortune disowned

My book circle absolutely panned Sons of Fortune. Whew! They do have taste. I didn't bother to finish the book which gave me a way out of being scathing. I think I am rather known for being negative or picky about our books. I always seem to find some little thing to complain about, even if I generally like the book. About books I dislike I can be, well, rather withering in my criticism. But in this case the book was so bad that saying what I truly thought of the book would be cruel to the person who suggested it. But I didn't want to be dishonest either and not be as critical as I felt so my answer was not to read the book!

No one liked it, even the Archer fans, saying it was not up to even his standard. I tried to read one of Archer's books before and couldn't get into it so I don't know what his best is. Kane (Cain?) and Abel was mentioned.

Another of our members didn't get around to reading it and we all suggested she not waste her time with it. That's pretty bad.

Our next book, as suggested by one of our members, is The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith I have read it but that is okay as I am only half way through Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell. Someone thought there wouldn't be enough to discuss. It is a short book but if the members read the series we can discuss all of them and they are deceptively simple. There is a lot of thought in them and I think a lot we can pull out with some reflection and contemplation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Book store

I have added to my stack of books to read having spent an hour or so in Chapters today. Looked for Margaret Drabble's The Red Queen but they didn't have it in stock. Did find the Lynne Truss Treasury which was on my wish list and after much musing I picked up Penelope Lively's The Photograph and Adultery by Richard B. Wright, the latter because it is likely to be on our book circle list. I am still working through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. It is a thick book in more ways than one. I still haven't done more than dip into The Jane Austen Book Club so I have a lot of reading on my plate. Now that Sept. is here I am hoping I will have time for it all. As for writing, the drought continues.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Our writing group met in Aug. and the theme for next meeting is either "new beginnings" or haiku. I tried a haiku today on Katrina. These are my poor first efforts.

Flood, famine, looting
Victims sitting and waiting
Test of a nation

Water, death, rubble
Angry eyes, waiting asking
When are you coming ?
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)