Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Northanger Abbey.

Title/Author: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

Genre: Classic.


Source: Free on Kindle.

Favorite character: Catherine.

Favorite quote:
"And now I may dismiss our herione to the sleepless couch, which is the true heroine's portion; to a pillow strewed with thorns and wet tears." ~Narrator/J. Austen

"If I am wrong, I am doing what I believe to be right." ~Catherine.

All in all: A fun book worth reading.

Synopsis: During an eventful season at Bath, young, naive Catherine Morland experiences fashionable society for the first time.  She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who introduces Catherine to the joys of Gothic romances, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father's house, Northanger Abbey.  There, influenced by novels of horror and intrigue, Catherine comes to imagine terrible crimes committed by General Tilney, risking the loss of Henry's affection, and has to learn the difference between fiction and reality, false friends and true. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, Northanger Abbey is the most youthful and optimistic of Jane Austen's works.

My Thoughts:  I wanted to read this story because this is Jane Austen's take on a Gothic novel as well as her poking fun at novels of her day.  I can see all these elements in Northanger Abby.  Catherine's daydreams and suspicions of the old house, Austen talking to the reader in a humorous vein and the overall silliness of some of the characters. 

I have to admit I had a difficult time keeping all the characters straight and it took me a while before I didn't have to refer back to previous pages.   This may have had something to do with the fact that I put the book down frequently.  It's not that I got bored, because I didn't and when I picked it up again I enjoyed reading it.  It just wasn't a "I couldn't put it down" novel.

I like many of the characters and I feel they are the strongest element of the book.  Catherine makes me laugh.  She sort of reminds me of myself because she can be so oblivious.  I felt her frustration and unhappiness as Isabella and John scheme to monopolize her and put her in a mortifying situation.  I felt her disappointment at exploring the mysterious Northanger Abbey only to discover...nothing.  I remember doing the same thing in my grandmother's old house.  I hoped to find treasures, but only discovered old clothes that smelled like mothballs and cigar boxes full of pencils. Catherine's love interest, Henry, acts as mentor and teacher and tries to keep her feet on the ground, but he also indulges her whimsical imaginations. This aspect reminds me of Emma and Mr. Knightley.  I feel Isabella and John are the most interesting.  They are so self absorbed and manipulative that it is almost comical.  What is more humorous is Catherine's slow and reluctant recognition of this.  Someone said to me that they felt there is nothing extraordinary about Catherine, but this is precisely why I like her as the protagonist.  Sure, I like to read about interesting, exciting people, but honestly, most of us are pretty ordinary and aren't we the protagonists in our own life story? 

Several times Austen speaks directly to the reader as if she is telling a bed time story.  I read Pride and Prejudice so long ago, I can't remember if she did the same thing or if she does this in her other novels, but I find it a bit jarring and I'm not sure I like it. 

Northanger Abbey was published after Jane Austen's death and I wonder if she had lived to go back and re-work this novel what changes she may have made.  Perhaps she would have shown us what happened at the end instead of paraphrasing or included the details of Eleanor and her husband.  Maybe we would have seen more drama between Captain Tilney, Isabella and James or even Henry at odds with his father or friction between Henry and John.

There are many things that are pointed out in Northanger Abbey that are just hinted at or taken for granted in her other novels, such as appropriate behavior, social norms and the subject of money.  Although in my opinion, this is not a perfect novel, I enjoyed reading it.  If you are a Jane Austen fan and have not read Northanger Abbey, it is a fun frolic through her world.



Maria (Serpentine Library) said...

Northanger Abbey is the one Austen book I haven't read. But, I have seen the Masterpiece Theater version and I remember really liking Catherine. Hmm, maybe it's time I actually read Northanger Abbey.

Liz said...

I agree that this is a fun book. Have you seen the film that was made of it? It's definitely worth a watch.

Missie, The Unread Reader said...

This was probably my least favorite Austen, but it is interesting to wonder if she would have made changes to it before it was published.

Midnyte Reader said...

Hey Ladies, I saw the movie version a long time ago and don't remember a lot of it, but in reading the book, I did realize it was different than the movie. I think I'd like to watch it again.

I think that she definitely would have changed it.

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