Monday, October 24, 2011

Northanger Abbey


“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” -- Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey.

It's Gothic Literature this month at The Classics Circuit!!  And my author of choice is . . . Jane Austen!!  You would think after spending five whole days discussing Jane Austen with a bunch of other Janeites would be enough, wouldn't you? Well, I did too (and I do admit I'm just the tiniest bit sick of Sense and Sensibility), but after picking up Northanger Abbey, I'm in love with Austen's works all over again.  

For those who are not familiar, NA is the story of Catherine Morland, a young lady who is neither particularly accomplished or clever -- she grew up something of a tomboy and has really only become fairly pretty rather recently.  She's from a large family and her father is a clergyman living in the country. Mrs. Allen, the childless wife of the local landowner, has befriended her, and invites her to spend several weeks in Bath, where Mr. Allen will be taking the waters for his health.  There Catherine is introduced to some eligible young bachelors and makes some new friends, including Isabella Thorpe, who is coincidentally the sister of John Thorpe, friend and Oxford classmate of Catherine's older brother James. She also befriends Eleanor Tilney, a lovely young lady who happens to be the sister of the handsome Henry Tilney.  Following all this so far?

JJ Feild and Felicity Jones as Henry and Catherine in Northanger Abbey

While in Bath, Catherine attends balls, strolls around the pump room, and discusses shocking and decadent Gothic novels with her friends.  When she is invited to spend time with Eleanor and her family at their home, Northanger Abbey, she jumps at the chance, since it sounds exactly like the sort of thing she's been reading about in her beloved novels -- and the idea of spending more time with Henry is pretty enticing too.  She envisions secret passages, winding staircases, and things that go bump in the night.  Of course, her imagination begins to run away with her and hilarity ensues.  

This is my second read of Northanger Abbey, and quite honestly, I liked it even more this time around.  I read it for the first time several years ago and was unimpressed -- it's one of her earliest works and also one of her shortest, and it's obvious to anyone who's read Austen that her other novels are much more complex and well-developed.   But this time I was really struck by how funny it is!  I saw glimmers of her trademark wit, and it's far more satirical than her other novels.  Pretty impressive for a first book (though it was published posthumously in 1818, it was the first novel she completed, in 1803).  It's not even really that much of a Gothic novel -- our heroine Catherine doesn't even visit the eponymous abbey until the second half of the novel.   

Northanger Abbey is not considered one of Jane Austen's best works, and it's not among her most popular.  But having read it the second time, my only real complaint is that it's too short -- I wanted to spend more time with Catherine and her world. 

18 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I felt like this one was far more clever than a good half of her novels! And definitely far more layered.

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  2. I really enjoyed this one as well. All the Classics Circuit reviews have me dying to watch the adaptation, but I'm saving it for Advent with Austen.

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  3. I loved this one when I read it a few years ago. I need to re read it!

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  4. I really enjoyed this book and the more recent adaptation, too. I think the book is really funny, but I admit that I'm one of those who is not completely convinced that Tilney was in love with Catherine...

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  5. It's my least favourite Austen. I love the first half of the book - the scenes in Bath are so well written, and the interaction between the characters are perfect- but it goes downhill when it gets to the abbey. But I agree it's better on the re-read.

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  6. I really like Northanger Abbey even if it isn't her most popular. It's really funny!

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  7. I recognize this isn't Austen's best book, but I love it significantly better than Sense and Sensibility and rather better than Mansfield Park, BECAUSE Henry Tilney is the only one of Jane Austen's heroes that I would actually consider marrying. He has a sense of humor, which is pretty key.

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  8. Northanger Abbey is my second favorite Jane Austen novel (P&P #1, of course).... laugh out loud funny at times. Definitely time for a reread!

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  9. Amanda -- I caught more of the satire this time around, which I loved. It's definitely one of the funnier novels.

    Nymeth -- Advent with Austen?? Tell me more!! Do you watch or read Austen every day, instead of eating chocolate or lighting candles?

    Reviews by Lola -- I think I liked it better this time around because I'm more familiar with Gothic novels.

    Aarti -- I wonder about Henry too. I think he's one of the better heroes, but I wish he was more developed. I did catch something about how he's attracted to Catherine because he realizes SHE is attracted to HIM. Not necessarily bad, but does he just feel obligated to her, like Edward and Lucy Steele?

    Tracy -- I agree, I wish there was more to the second half of the book. And I want to know what happened to those wretched Thorpes! Maybe Isabella met William Elliot in Bath, and John ended up with Mrs. Clay.

    Chrisbookarama -- I picked up on the humor much better this time around. I think the adaptation may have had something to do with it.

    Jenny -- I love P&P and Persuasion the best, then the other four kind of alternate depending on my mood. I think I like the movie adaptation of Mansfield Park better than the book -- the 1995 version, not the 2008. In the book Fanny is kind of annoying.

    JoAnn -- I alternate between loving P&P and Persuasion best. I love the romance between Anne and Wentworth, but there is so much great stuff in P&P!! It's hard to choose.

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  10. Glad you enjoyed NA more this time around--I enjoy Catherine and Henry so much!

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  11. I love NA too. I read it again a couple of years ago & thought it was so clever & funny. Henry Tilney is one of JA's most appealing heroes.

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  12. This one has always been my favorite, because it satirizes so many of the 18th-century conventions that I had been studying for so long when I first read it. And there's a movie?!

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  13. I'm so glad you loved this one!! I just read this one for the first time (also for the Circuit), and I found it hysterical. :-D

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  14. Enjoyed your review. Although NA is not my favourite Austen I agree with you that I could spend more time with Catherine. She is charming.

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  15. I need to reread this one. I remember enjoying it as a teen, but not on the same level as my teenaged first experience with Pride and Prejudice!

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  16. Hello! Hope all is well. I just wanted to share the Persephone excitement... (I emailed ya)

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  17. Just found your blog! Love it! Tilney is my FAV Austen hero. He's so witty and cheerful.

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