Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Northanger Abbey

I have just read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (199 pages) and, for a quick and easy read, found it very enjoyable.

The novel is a coming-of-age story of Catherine Morland, a lovely higher-middle-class young lady, as she grows up during a stay in Bath and, later, in Northanger Abbey.

Jane Austen successfully detaches herself from the heroine and uses this to make a comment on the process of reading and writing novels (seeing Northanger Abbey was originally wrote in 1798-99 when the novel was in one of it's earliest forms).

Although she is narrating the story, Austen continues to comment and reflect, to the reader, on what is happening in the novel. She makes it clear throughout that the characters are fictional. For example, this can be seen in the early introduction of Catherine;

"it may be stated for the reader's more certain information, lest the following pages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character is meant to be; that her heart was affectionate" (Austen 7)

In regards to reading novels, she makes Catherine an avid reader of the novels of the time (especially those of Ann Radcliffe- whose novel The Mysteries of Udolpho I am planning on eventually reading) and has her decisions/ beliefs/ understandings of the world around her formed from what she learns when she reads. For example, her idea of General Tilney being a secret murderer is formed after reading gothic novels;

"Catherine's blood ran cold with horrid suggestions which naturally sprang from these words. Could it be possible?- Could Henry's father?- And yet how many were the examples to justify even the blackest suspicions!" (Austen 146)

She only holds these ideas due to trying to find the 'twist' in real life that would be evident in the novels she reads.

There are two things I want to comment on (one negative, one positive);

1) Getting the negative out of the way quickly, if a novel needs notes (for references to people, words that aren't used anymore, etc.) don't include them at the back of the book!

I honestly get so frustrated having to skip to the back of the book to find what a 'tamboured muslin' is or the definition/explanation of some other simple, yet somewhat necessary, word. Why not just include them in footnotes? So much easier!

That's the end of that negativity!

2) Here is the positive! My favourite thing about reading older novels is discovering words that aren't used often anymore (for example, I couldn't stop saying/writing 'dig', 'digged', 'digging' after reading Jack Kerouac's On The Road).

For this novel the two words I loved where; 'agreeable' and 'disagreeable'.

Imagine if these two words replaced positive and negative words today. After hearing someone call someone a 'douchebag' on television I now keep changing it (in my head) with disagreeable. Oh how much more sophisticated it sounds!

Anyway, all in all, although it wasn't the most gripping of novels it was quite enjoyable to read! This was my second Jane Austen book (previously read her novel Emma), so I am not the most informed reader to say if it is as enjoyable as her other books but it definitely wasn't as good as my last Austen read!

The edition I read was ISBN: 0-460-87434-9

Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. London: Everyman, 1994. Print.

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