Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey

★★½

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

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Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
Language: English
Publication details: UK: Transatlantic Press, 2012. (First published 1817)
Pages: 253

My ponderings:

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Yes, even those of sparkling variety.

Northanger Abbey is well-known as Austen’s parody of the trend of Victorian Gothic novels. I went into the book expecting a delightful romp in Catherine’s overactive imagination, and it did deliver. Catherine, being a girl obsessed with reading Gothic novels, is invited to Miss Tilney’s house, where she starts imagining all sorts of creepy things going on when really, it’s just a regular old house.

I found Catherine to be a lovable character for a few reasons:

a) What book-lover cannot applaud Catherine’s ardent love for books? No doubt a resonance of the author’s feelings. The commendation of books is a recurring theme in many books I’ve read…for reasons that bear no prizes for guessing!

“It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language” 

b) She is modest and shy, and shares some of the same sentiments with me when it comes to mingling with others! It really is amazing to see how we can share such similar sentiments to someone two centuries back, regardless if it’s a fictional character.

 

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“To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.”

“Catherine began to feel something of disappointment – she was tired of being continually pressed against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted that she could not relieve the irksomeness of imprisonment by the exchange of a syllable with any of her fellow captives…”

3) She longs for adventure after reading her tales! I’m biased to like her when I just find her character so utterly relatable.

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“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” 

 

 

Catherine is a swell protagonist: not a heroine in a traditional sense, not exactly an anti-heroine either (like Emma was supposed to be), but rather, an innocent and demure girl, who doesn’t actually go through that much character progression but does however, have to learn things the hard way.

 

Then we have Isabella, who is the supposed “nemesis” in the book. Though I know people like her and can’t say I enjoy their company all that much either, I actually found her really entertaining and just rather on the selfish side as opposed to being a mean, nasty bitch. She did have a way with words.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” 

Ok, so she didn’t really keep to her words. Still, such lovely words!

 

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She betrays Gatsby AND she betrays Catherine.
 “so, with smiles of most exquisite misery, and the laughing eye of utter despondency, she bade her friend adieu and went on.”

 

This, too, is how I say bye to my friends.

 

Then there’s Miss Tilney, who as nice as a dove as she was, kinda bored me. She was just so perfect in every way.

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“Her manners showed good sense and good breeding; they were neither shy nor affectedly open; and she seemed capable of being young, attractive, and at a ball without wanting to fix the attention of every man near her, and without exaggerated feelings of ecstatic delight or inconceivable vexation on every little trifling occurrence.”

While I admire her utter perfectness, it also kinda bored me. Which brings me to my next point.

 

As much as I enjoyed Northanger Abbey at first, and I did enjoy it with Catherine being set-up as this rather average protagonist who has her head in her bookish fantasies and fumbles a bit with social interactions, and Isabella being all charming and manipulative, and the shenanigans of courting suitors; it started to slow down for me after they got to Miss Tilney’s manor. Since I already knew from the start that there was no real mystery, there isn’t much intrigue. Add on to that Miss Tilney’s rather bland personality, and I basically lost my momentum for the second half of the book. I’d rather have been back in town with all the drama concerning Isabella and lost suitors and such.

Henry Tilney, Miss Tilney’s brother and Catherine’s love interest is charming enough, but also rather lacking in personality I find. I mean, he’s witty, but that’s about it. Oh, and he’s also a nice guy, if that can be counted as a personality trait.

 

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Well said indeed, Henry.

 

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He’s cute as a button though

“I am come, young ladies, in a very moralizing strain, to observe that our pleasures in this world are always to be paid for, and that we often purchase them at a great disadvantage, giving ready-monied actual happiness for a draft on the future, that may not be honored.

All in all, I would say I enjoyed this book. However, I won’t lie, I had to slog through the ending pages because it really wasn’t building up to any momentous ending. It’s got that Jane Austen 1800s feel that I like, but it tapered off a little blandly towards the end.Personally, I blame the fact that the audience already knows that there’s no big secret, and also Little Miss Mary Sue Tilney. The romance between Henry and Catherine felt kinda “meh” too, to be honest. It was cute, but definitely no Darcy and Elizabeth.

Would I recommend reading it? Perhaps to avid Austen fans. Then again, I feel that to get into most of Austen’s books one has to already possess a certain inclination towards that specific genre, era, writing style, etc, etc (for me it was the era, I have a soft spot for historical fiction).

So if you’ve tried Austen and like her stuff, then you’ll probably enjoy this. If it’s your first go at her though, I would recommend starting out with Pride and Prejudice.

Now, I’m off to read Emma! Which I hope, shall be an entertaining romp throughout.

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