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This subtly sinister novel which builds an atmosphere of ostracization in a small New England town captures Shirley Jackson's notoriously creepy tone while examining the mysterious lives of two sisters. Merricat narrates with a distinctive voice and twisted view of the world, simultaneously unnerving and strangely lovable. The townsfolk who treat her family with hostile suspicion create a tense social environment not unlike the famous one in Jackson's short story, “The Lottery.” With a dose of grim humor from an invalid uncle and a strange visiting relative, we experience Merricat's struggle as she watches her world of superstitious games and solitude unravel in the face of persecution. This story is told with dark imagination and is a great intro to the themes and style of Jackson's work.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is the best possible combination of Charles Dickens' characters and scope, Jane Austen's social wit, and Neil Gaiman's impressive magic. English magicians have studied the dry history of their craft for a long time—often engaging in amusing scholarly debates—but Mr. Norrell and his dashing student Strange, bring real magic back to England with startling consequences. The lines between real late 18th century events and Clarke's invented history blend seamlessly to create a striking atmosphere with a whole host of unforgettable characters: obnoxious social climbers, terrifying fairy gentlemen, brave young ladies, and the mysterious king of Northern England mingle with the likes of Lord Wellington and King George. This debut novel is so rich in historical detail and sharp humor that you'll never want to put it down.