A rose by any other name

I was surprised to learn in the latest issue of SFX that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell had tanked on TV.  I was gobsmacked.  I thought it was the best thing I have ever watched on BBC 1.  Utterly gorgeous, hugely clever, intensely adult, subtly complex characterisation – a story about something that mattered.  It was funny and dark and had so many outstanding moments that I couldn’t begin to list them here though I did enjoy Mr Norrell’s raptures about English rain because I feel the same, though we get so very little of it in the middle of London, just a bit of armpit sweat every now and then to grease the sidewalks.  My daughter and I sat entranced every Sunday night for seven weeks (oh, for it to have been another 10….), too thrilled to wait for the catch-up version without the stupid idiot announcer talking over the end credits.  It was one of the few times my daughter watched TV bolt upright and I’ve promised to buy the box set so that we can watch it all again in delight.  I’ve bought the book too and can’t wait to read it but am saving it.  Having glanced at the first page to ensure that, yes, the writing is as excellent as I thought it would be, I can’t help wishing that I had written it.  I wish I could have such good ideas, could execute them so excellently that awards are showered on me and the BBC creates a lavish, expensive, highly detailed, brilliantly acted TV series out of it.  What utter joy Susanna Clarke (god, her name is even similar to mine) must feel, to have written something so satisfying, so intelligent, so beautiful, so magical, so wonderful…………..while I struggle to churn out garbage that no one reads.  I’m jealous, I’m envious but I’m also thankful that someone at least did write this, even if it wasn’t me.  It seems JS and Mr N failed on TV because people don’t like fantasy.  Really?  Who are those trillions watching Throne of Games?  Well, not me, cos I can’t stand that sort of thing but GOT is hardly in the same league as JS+MrN – the latter is for adults, for people with intellect and a desire for beauty.  I never once thought of it as fantasy.  Nor did I think of it as alternate history.  It seemed to have no genre at all, yet I see Susanna Clarke has won (or was nominated for) some sci-fi awards.  Writing outside of genre myself, I think this book is also outside of genre.  It would be a shame to lump it with the GOTs of the world or the Harry Potters, because it’s so much better.  There are ideas in it that I’ve never seen before, magic that would never had occurred to me.  Imagination is at work here at its very peak.  If you haven’t watched it, do.  It’s divine.

I did, at the very, very least, get a letter published in the Radio Times – quite a feat, I think.  Here it is:IMG_1384 - Copy


About susannahjbell

I am a writer of science fiction and other strange and surreal works. I mostly write novels and the occasional novelette. My published works include A Doorway into Ultra, the Fleet Quintet and the Exodus Sequence. I live in London in an attic flat but really want to live in a tree. I wanted to be an astrophysicist but would settle for an alien abduction. I write because I don’t know what to read.
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2 Responses to A rose by any other name

  1. I’m currently watching the show in the United States, and as you say, it’s wonderful. I’ll do my part to spread the word on how great this program is.

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