Monday, April 15, 2013

Rereading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger AbbeyNorthanger AbbeyNo one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. 

Here is what I said in my original, horribly short review: "Jane Austen. Some people like her, other people hate her. (At least, that's what I got from the writing.) Northanger Abbey is apparently the most cheerful and lighthearted of her novels, dealing with Catherine Morland, a young naive lady, who goes to Bath, and experiences fashionable society for the first time. She meets many new friends: Isabella, who shows her Gothic romances, and 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.' (Penguin Books.) I definitely enjoyed the light tone and writing of Austen, but (as I said early), I can definitely imagine how some people would not like it all. She wrote even before Charles Dickens, and yet her style is much less overwritten, with not many adjectives (Dickens is stuffed with them.) Austen's style is a sort gossipy tone; the young ladies talking among themselves about various happenings. Henry Tilney was a really great character, really likable. I liked the book overall a lot; it was quite a contrast from other literature from around that time, is definitely a readable classic for most people. Northanger Abbey was published posthumously right after her death." Yes, there was a fragment in the second-to-last sentences. Yes, I said "Northanger Abbey was published posthumously right after her death." Lots of redundancy...some of my older reviews are painful to read. 

Anyway, I rated it four stars at the time, but now it's definitely a 5 star read. I'm more equipped to appreciate Jane Austen after having read all of her novels and most of her shorter works. Northanger Abbey is really witty, and humorous, and youthful. A lot of the dialogue in it is just so charming. There was one particular chapter that I really liked. I'm also experimenting with marking stuff in books; passages that I like, interesting areas, etc.

I love the character of Henry Tilney in this one. He's really charming, and also really kind and all-around amazing, especially when compared to the horrible Mr. Thorpe, who is so boorish and likes to drive his horses fifty miles a day, and has no respect for women. But Mr. Tilney is wonderful, even better than Darcy in some ways. Catherine really likes him from the very beginning, so we really like him too. He's kind of a better version of Bingley; he's more playful and less infuriatingly trusting than Bingley. He's also unique; the only other Austen character that I can think of similar to him is probably Elizabeth. They both are really witty, playful, and smart. Also, Tilney has knowledge of muslin, and he actually reads novels, unlike the detestable Mr. Thorpe. He's the one who says that the person, - be it gentleman or lady - who has not pleasure in a good novel, must intolerably stupid. I have to agree. I also love his sister Eleanor; they're an amazing pair.

Also, this time around I took more time to really read the book; I was reading quickly, but I wasn't rushing to get to the end. Thus, I could savor the dialogue and the phrasing better. I really love Catherine too; she's very naive, but also a really nice person. Catherine is less placid than Fanny, but also less arch than Elizabeth (though several characters accuse her of archness).

Catherine's fondness of Gothic novels leads her to all sorts of suppositions about Northanger Abbey. It doesn't help that on the ride there Mr. Tilney told a story about locked cabinets and passageways, and that's exactly what happens to her at the abbey (sort of).

The first time I read Northanger Abbey, I didn't really see why it is "the most youthful and optimistic" of Jane Austen's books. That's because I hadn't read any of her other novels before. Reading it this time, I could definitely see how light it was. I noticed - and penned in the margins-  that Northanger Abbey doesn't really talk about incomes or financial difficulties, something which all of Austen's other novels do talk about. Extensively. The Morlands' situation isn't really delved into, though the reader does know that they're comfortable, but not really wealthy. And the Tilneys are really wealthy, but that doesn't serve as a barrier against friendship. Northanger Abbey also may be the most unrealistic of Austen's novels, but nevertheless, I loved the world portrayed in it. I loved this one much, much more the second time around.

Read Northanger Abbey:
  • if you like Jane Austen
  • if you like classic literature
  • if you like British literature
235 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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