19 January 2012

Book Review: Northanger Abbey

Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher/Year: Wordsworth Classics / 1993 / 1803
Source/Format: Mooch / Print
Date Finished: 11 January 2012
Book # 2

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
Catherine Morland, young, innocent, naive, and enamored of Gothic novels, finds herself embroiled in a love story not at all straight out of one of her favorite books. What follows is a sweet, sometimes frustrating, humorous, and entertaining coming of age tale peppered with a bit of romance.

A Bit of a Ramble
When Catherine Morland accompanies her friends and neighbors, the Allens, to Bath, she finds herself in the middle of two quite distinct siblings: the Thorpes and the Tinleys. Isabella Thorpe is outgoing, forward, and self-centered, as is her brother John who has set his sights on Catherine. Eleanor Tinley is constant and sweet as is her brother Henry who has captured Catherine's heart. These two sets really provide the framework for Catherine to move away from her naivete to a more realistic view of the world. While the Thorpes overwhelm Catherine, she does not have the knowledge or experience to recognize their true intentions. They are exciting, flirtatious, over-the-top, and narcissistic. The Tinley's, on the other hand, are much more real, grounded.

This same dichotomy is seen in Catherine's impressionability regarding Gothic tropes. Her imagination causes her to see the world around her as a Gothic novel come to light, especially when she finds herself at Northanger Abbey, the "abbey" of it being so wonderfully Gothic. Her tendency to blur the line between fiction and reality, or reconstruct reality to suit a fiction, is oddly endearing to me, and felt pretty dang perfect for a seventeen-year-old. As is the case with all young people though, Catherine must come to realize the truth of the Thorpes, and so to must she come to realize the mundane quality of the abbey she has found herself in.

Most of the tale revolves around this idea: that Catherine needs to put aside childish fancy and see reality for what it is, much more simple and much less sensational than the stories she reads. I don't want this to come across, though, as a book that finds fault with imagination and flights of fancy. On the contrary, I think Austen has created a book that both stresses the importance of imagination and the necessity of not letting said imagination outweigh common sense.

And it's freaking funny people. Seriously, I already spoke a bit about the narrator in my discussion post on this book, but I really want to stress how funny I found this book. I definitely recommend reading this one, and a big thanks to those of you who suggested this be one of the first classics I read for my goals!

NOTES
This book counts towards Reading Goal #1: Reading Off My Own Shelves and specifically my Classics Reading Project.

26 comments:

  1. I've not read this one yet...I think it gets much less attention so it is the last one you turn to when you want to pick up an Austen. I think Austen is hilarious in a restrained way. I would have loved to have met her.

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    1. I think she would have been a joy to talk to.

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  2. I've never heard it being described as funny!! Good to have another perspective.

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    1. It's definitely funny! You should give it a go.

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  3. I am, of course, really happy you liked it! I laughed so much reading this one.

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    1. You were definitely right about me enjoying this one!

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  4. Have you read The Mysteries of Udolpho yet? If not, I highly recommend it! :)

    I thought this book was hysterical. I hardly ever laugh aloud while reading, but this one got me.

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    1. I have it on the nook to be read sometime this year!

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  5. I saw the movie and was actually bored! But that doesn't mean the book was. In the movie I got bored with all the fantasy/dream sequences.

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    1. Fantasy and dream sequences? Hmmm...I almost want to watch it now just to see how they incorporate those.

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  6. This is something that I want to read soon. I love Austen's razor sharp wit, and also her ability to tell a tale with flair and grace. I have this great big book of all of Austen's work that I love to dip in and out of, and when I do read this one, I think I will be reading it out of that collection. Wonderful review today!

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    1. Grace is a really good term to describe Austen's voice!

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  7. This is a very amusing book. I'm reading a graphic novel adaption now and can't wait for the last two in the series.

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    1. I have not yet read a GN adaptation of a classic novel, but I'm definitely intrigued.

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  8. I'm convinced! And I already own it, so score!

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    1. Nice! I think you'll really enjoy it.

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  9. The humour in this one really is a delight :)

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    1. It's such a perfect sort of humor for the story.

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  10. I read this book last year and loved it. It really was hilarious. Glad you thought so too!

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    1. I can't believe it took me this long to read it!

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  11. I really, really want to reread this after I get my hands on a copy of The Mysteries of Udolpho. Something tells me it's going to be much funnier after that. :)

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    1. I think I would have read Udolpho first too had I actually thought it through. :)

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  12. This one really is hilarious. The first time I read it was years ago and I didn't realize quite how funny Austen was until I picked this one up.

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    1. I agree! The humor is one of the reasons I really enjoyed this one.

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  13. Read this one for the first time last year -- for the Gothic Reading Challenge, oddly enough. They never said it had to be a serious gothic novel, after all.

    I didn't really know where it was going at first, but as soon as I got it, man did I enjoy reading! Poor Catherine and her over-active imagination. At least it's a happy ending for everyone.

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  14. I read this as a teenager. I think I'll really appreciate it upon reread :)

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