I would just like to say that I have been doing Snow Reads before it was a thing. In January of 2014, I committed to The Mysteries of Udolpho and last winter it was The Luminaries. I always circle a snow read for a time to decide if it will be my first long text after the New Year starts. I don’t know why one book becomes a snow read over another. It is my version of hygge, which I have seen floating about on social media, and The New Yorker did a piece on it. Hygge, to me, is just mindfulness focused on the real comfort that winter allows. Every day comfort, gratitude for what is and the small things, not big indulgences. Mindfulness is huge in Psychology right now: happy people find things notice to be happy about, no matter what and how. Things slow down enough for me in the winter to really immerse myself in a longer book, hopefully while crafting. A snow read transitions me from the bleak weeks between Christmas and the dawn of spring. (48 days, I think)
Probably what propelled this Snow Read from possible to certain was the discovery that it has a miniseries on Netflix. I was tempted to watch the miniseries, but then one of my smart friends said that she had not read it and the miniseries made no sense to her, so then I had to, right? If I wanted to watch the miniseries. And I noticed the paper copy at one of my libraries was gone, so someone else had the same idea. And, of course, if I have a long book I like it to be about magic:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
I first need to say that this is NOT Harry Potter for grownups. Many reading blogs post on Harry Potter for Grownups. There is no such thing. I saw a similar post of books to help you move on from Harry Potter, which I think is a more appropriate goal. Harry Potter was written for a hard to reach demographic: middle school boys. I have to respect JK for trying to appeal to a tough market like this when she was just getting her wings as a writer. But you can’t get back the absolute wonder a child/young adult feels the first time that the world of Harry Potter is open to them (so what if my college friends were on the internet wanting to get sorted?) no matter how good your book is, because you are an adult now. I have to say that the closest I got to recreating that wonder in another book was The Magicians, which is wonderful but also full of young adult angst of sex and drugs and wanting to recapture the innocence and fantasy of youth, which Harry does not have.
This book is about two English magicians in the early 1800s. Clarke places these fictional gentlemen in a real time and place. She even has Strange befriend Lord Byron, which was interesting for me, having just read Romantic Outlaws, and he is the same man in Clarke’s novel as he is in the biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley; the same interesting rogue who doesn’t mind getting close to something absurd in a time where others actively eschewed it. This book is about performing nature magic and a parallel, and then intersecting plot with the world of the fae, and a mystery that is solved with an appreciable twist.
It was an excellent study into the world of upper class men in early 1800s Britain. There are female characters who are significant but congruent to the era, the ladies are more placeholders in the schemes of the men, not front and center. This makes it a little different for me, as we all know I love a good book featuring the hidden worlds of women, but I still liked it. This book is for people who like to read about old school English gentlemen, even if they are not exactly likeable. Norrell is a jealous old man whose jealousy really is the motivation for many of his actions in the book. He wants to own and control magic and does everything he can toward this end, but he was still sympathetic.
My favorite character was by far Stephen Black, a servant with dark skin, unusual to that place and time, who is endlessly respectable.
It’s a snow read. It’s part of my comprehensive winter mindfulness project, which also involves taking my child outside to play and making my best effort at enjoying playing in the snow. Lighting candles, making spinach artichoke dip, knitting my first pair of socks and finding out that I really need an algorithm more than I do a pattern because of my fat feet.
And, a brief aside, I have resisted posting a reading goal on Goodreads, and I am pleased with myself for resisting. I have not resisted buying more books. When something good goes on ebook sale, especially with an appreciable companion audio price, it becomes mine. But ReadDown 2017 is in full swing with reads I will be posting on later.
Have you watched this miniseries? Is it worth the time of someone who does not tend to make time for television?
Comments/shares/likes are always appreciated!