Toby Haynes

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (2004)

Posted on Updated on

Contains spoilers for the TV show and for the novel

This is not a repeat! I say again, this is not a repeat.

200px-Jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell_coverYou may recall that a couple of months ago I handed out my somewhat less than enamoured views on the first two episodes of BBC One’s big new Sunday night drama adaptation Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and confessed that it simply hadn’t really been to my liking. The period tale of magical fantasy had been just a little too way out and weird not to mention somewhat over the top and florid for my liking, and my views didn’t really change over the course of the remainder of the seven-part series – although at least on the upside I did just about stick with it to the end. The final episode was the most difficult when everything was turned up to eleventy-stupid as far as I was concerned, but at the same time it also contained the single best scene of the entire series in the form of a quiet moment of simple honesty and reconciliation between the two titular characters just before everything went to Hell or thereabouts.

I admitted at the time of my original review that I hadn’t read the original novel by Susannah Clarke from which the television serial was adapted, and moreover added that I had no real desire to. That comment was picked up by a couple of friends of mine, who both insisted that I absolutely must do so. I was very resistant to the idea – why read a book when the TV version had not been to my taste in the first place? Plus I rarely read a book after having seen the film or TV version since I find that re-covering such recently trodden familiar ground is so tedious that I invariably lose interest and stop reading part-way through. However the friends in question are smart and frighteningly well-informed, and when I also found that the eBook was on special offer to coincide with the TV broadcast I realised I didn’t even have a financial leg to stand on to help me put it off. As a result I duly did as I was told and bought the book and gave it a go, wondering just how many chapters I had to plough through before I could in all honesty stop and say in good faith that I’d given it the good old college try and that my initial prejudices had been confirmed and that enough was enough and could I read something else now? Read the rest of this entry »

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell E1-2 (BBC One)

Posted on Updated on

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of heightened magical fantasy/adult fairytales. Even when Doctor Who veers into this sort of thing, I struggle – as my reviews of some of the more recent episodes of that show under Steven Moffat can attest. The mix has to be spot-on to keep me engaged, and if it all gets too weird or fantastical then I’m afraid I’m usually to be found heading to the check-out desk forthwith.

strange-norrellUnfortunately, admirable and impressive though many parts of this TV adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s 2004 novel undoubtedly are, the BBC’s new seven-part drama Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is teetering at the very outside edge of the sort of thing I’ll hang around for. And I stress again, this is very much to do with my personal preferences and attitudes, not a criticism of the work of director Toby Haynes or writer Peter Harness in bringing the book to the screen. Set in an alternative 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars, the period detail is top-notch and the CGI realisation of the magical spells as impressive as anything you’ll see on television or indeed many a feature film. Read the rest of this entry »