Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke portrait image to appear alongside the Susanna Clarke biography.

Susanna Clarke, a Methodist Minister’s eldest daughter was born in Nottingham, England in 1959. Oxford educated (philosophy, politics and economics at St Hilda’s College), she is best known for her award winning novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which was published in 2004.

Clarke spent eight years working in publishing before moving to Turin, Italy in 1990. In Italy she taught English to employees of the Fiat motor company before moving to Bilbao in Spain in 1991 to teach English. She moved back to England in 1992.

In 1993, she began writing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The novel took ten years to complete, and a period she herself describes as "a crazy amount of time to spend on anything". During these ten years she worked as a cookery editor for the company Simon and Schuster in Cambridge. The book is dedicated to Susanna Clarke's brother Paul Frederick Gunn Clarke, who died in the year 2000.

"I always really liked magicians. I’m not even sure why—except that they know things other people don’t and they live in untidy rooms full of strange objects. In C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories there are only two magicians. One is weak and wicked, and the other barely gets two lines of dialogue. But they both fascinated me. One (the weak one) has a tray of magic rings, green and yellow, as shiny and bright as sweets. They’re magic, they’re jewellery and they look like scrummy sweets. What’s not to like?"
Susanna Clarke interview with BBC Nottingham

Although it took the publication of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell to make Susanna Clarke a household name, she had already had seven short stories published in the United States. Of these, Mr Simonelli, or The Fairy Widower was short listed for the 1991 World Fantasy Award.

Awards

  • Time's Best Novel of the Year (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) - 2004
  • Hugo Award for Best Novel (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) - 2005
  • World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) - 2005
  • Locus Award for Best First Novel (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) - 2005
  • Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) - 2005
  • British Book Awards Newcomer of the Year Award (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) - 2005

These are her five favourite authors as mentioned in a BBC interview.

  • Jane Austen
  • Alan Moore
  • Charles Dickens
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Joss Whedon

Susanna Clarke lists boredom and listlessness as two contributing factors in becoming a writer.

Susanna Clarke is married to fellow author Colin Greenland and is currently writing a follow up to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell but set a few years in the future and centres on different characters. She currently lives in Cambridge.

Susanna Clarke books reviewed

Bibliography

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2005)
    Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.
  • The Ladies of Grace Adieu: And Other Stories (2007)
    Faerie is never as far away as you think. Sometimes you find you have crossed an invisible line and must cope, as best you can, with petulant princesses, vengeful owls, ladies who pass their time embroidering terrible fates or with endless paths in deep, dark woods and houses that never appear the same way twice. The heroines and heroes bedevilled by such problems in these fairy tales include a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor and Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as two characters from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Strange himself and the Raven King.

Critical acclaim

"Dazzling, witty and gleefully entertaining ... A triumph of traditional imaginative storytelling, this is an energetic, engaging and inventive tale that simply kidnaps the lucky reader to participate in a rare experience" Irish Times