Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell review

So Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is finished and it's hard not to add 'thank goodness'. It was never bad enough not to stick with it, but it came close.

The trouble with adapting an over-long book that is intriguing and irritating in equal measures is that unless you take liberties with the script you end up with exactly the same kind of TV show. And they did. The series could have been condensed from 7 hours to 3 without significant loss.

The good news for those of us who hung on to the end was that the last episode was by far the best - far more engaging than some of its predecessors.

In fact, there was a lot in principle to like about the show. The CGI was surprisingly good, and the actors universally did an excellent job. There were striking set pieces throughout - it's just that for a lot of the episodes there was far more exposition and repetition than there was any real progression to the plot.

The other big problem was that the two most interesting characters - Mrs Strange and Childermass - both seemed underused. I don't know how much this is down to the book - I read it when it first came out and can't remember much about it - and how much it's the adaptation. Many of the other characters, though well acted, were a touch two dimensional.

Another moan is that because, after a very leisurely first six episodes, there was so much crammed into the final one, it wasn't really clear why Strange and Norrell disappeared at the end. The explanation was very short, and muffled to boot.

So, without doubt a brave attempt at a difficult novel to bring to the screen. But could have been better.


  1. I beg to differ. I thought it was all wonderful.

  2. You are very welcome to differ! These things are inevitably subjective.


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