Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Title:  Northanger Abbey

Author:  Jane Austen

published: 1817 (originally)

ISBN:  9781551114795

Challenges:  Everything Austen Challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word

“You think me foolish to call instruction a torment, but if you had been as much used as myself to hear poor little children first learning their letters and then learning to spell, if you had ever seen how stupid they can be for a whole morning together, and how tired my poor mother is at the end of it, as I am in the habit of seeing almost every day of my life at home, you would allow that to torment and to instruct might sometimes be used as synonimous words.”

“Very probably.  But historians are not accountable for the difficulty of learning to read; and even you yourself, who do not altogether seem particularly friendly to very severe, very intense application, may perhaps be brought to acknowledge that it is very well worth while to be tormented for two or three years of one’s life, for the sake of being able to read all the rest of it.  Consider – if reading had not been taught, Mrs Radcliffe would have written in vain – or perhaps might not have written at all.”

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, pages 123-124

Northanger Abbey was actually Jane Austen’s first novel, though it wasn’t published until after her death.  It was sold for ten pounds to a publisher who decided against publishing it and returned it to Jane’s brother, Henry, who did finally publish towards the end of 1817 (1818 on the original title page).  The wonderful thing about this book being the first, and almost lost forever, book Austen wrote is that it just oozes with her raw wit and satirical voice.  It displays her sharp tongue and passion about reading, women’s rights and plight in society, and the true value of novels.

The purpose of Northanger Abbey, besides using the text and characters as a mouthpiece to express Austen’s own thoughts, is to parody the gothic romance novels of her day, with particularly appreciation and affection for Mrs. Radcliffe’s.  Young Catherine Morland is an ingenue taking her first trip to Bath, the place for polite society to see and be seen by each other.  Miss Morland meets Henry Tilney and falls for him by the end of the evening.  However, his quick departure leaves her open to the influences of other new acquaintances, the Thorpes, who are rather vulgar and self-serving.  John Thorpe lies to make himself look better, lies to General Tilney (Henry’s father) about Catherine’s financial outlook, and lies to Catherine about Tilney in order to get her to go with him on a day trip.  Catherine is forced to develop her own judgment and to excercise it.

When she goes to Northanger Abbey, the family manse of the Tilneys, she begins to stretch these muscles to excess and begins to see a villain in every wardrobe, and a tale of cruelty behind every locked door.  She goes from blindly accepting that everyone is good and does good to deciding General Tilney is a cruel husband who has either murdered his wife or keeps her locked in a dungeon, feeding her gruel every night after the household has gone to bed.

Originally, I had issue with this sudden flip in personality.  I thought it a weak ploy to be able to parody Radcliffe, et al’s work.  However, after thinking it over, it occurred to me that Catherine was in love with Henry, and because of that wanted to be like him.  In his presence, she defers to his judgment on all things.  But when he’s gone from the Abbey, she tries to reason like him, but ends up over thinking everything to the point of ridiculousness.

“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to – Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained.  What have you been judging from?  Remember the country and the age in which we live.  Remember that we are English, that we are Christians… Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?” -Henry Tilney, pages 195-196

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Northanger Abbey, and found it delightful to read a “new” (to me) Jane Austen.  You know, everyone always reads Pride and Prejudice, and it’s a great book, I won’t argue that.  But I think even those who are less-than-enthused by Austen’s writing can appreciate this book.  It’s not quite as multi-layered as her other novels where people say one thing and everyone knows they mean a completely different thing (“Oh, Mrs Nesbit!  What a lovely frock” really means, “Die, bitch! DIE!!!!”)

Northanger Abbey is my new favorite Austen book, toppling the long-standing, afore-mentioned Pride and Prejudice (still very much-loved, just second place, now)  AND it has given me a new book crush.  Oh, Mr. Tilney!  *sigh… flutter… swoon* 😀  Also, reading this book was like taking a look back at the teenage version of me.  I was definitely Cathy Morland:  Dense in the way things really work, romantic-minded, and wanted what I read in books to be a reality.  Ah, then I grew up into Elizabeth Bennet/Elinor Dashwood.

Obviously, I give Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 5 out of 5 stars 😀

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Booking Through Thursday ~ Gimme a Gargoyle!

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question is an interesting one:

What book do you think should be made into a movie? And do you have any suggestions for the producers?

Or, What book do you think should NEVER be made into a movie?

Unfortunately, a lot of the books I think should never be made into a movie already ARE movies, The Kite Runner is the best example of this I can think of. The book spent so much time in the realms of the character’s mind, that when it was put on screen it was a pale, two-dimensional version of Hosseini’s brilliantly moving book. Eragon is another of the worst book-to-screen POS’s I know of. Where in the world did the screenwriter come up with the second half of the movie? I’m three books away from Brisingr on my “books on deck” list, and things are far from over, yet everything is tied up in a neat little book in the movie that shares a title with BOOK ONE of the Inheritance Cycle.

For the most part, though, I don’t think books-to-movies is a bad thing. Several books that are now on Mt. TBR, or that I’ve already read, were books I’d only found out about AFTER seeing the movie’s credits (Nim’s Island, V for Vendetta, and Dexter to name a few).

The real trouble in taking a well-loved book and making it into a movie lies in the fact that no two readers envision the same book in the same way. What is a beloved and favorite part for you, essential to the story and a deal-breaker in its retelling even, may not even stick in my memory. I can’t help but watch a movie, looking for my favorite scene from the book, only to be disappointed at the exclusion of what I thought were important points in the book. For instance, my favorite parts of Where the Red Fern Grows were Sammy the cat’s scenes, yet none of the books various movie renditions show, if even name, Sammy.

Books that I am dying to see on screen are already in the production process, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Lois Lowry’s The Giver being the two I’m most eager for.

I think I will take this opportunity for another shameless plug for one of the best books I read last year. I would LOVE-love-LOVE! to see a movie version of Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. The book should have really dominated the book market, but for some reason it fizzled, which is further proof the universe is NOT just. As to what recommendations I could have for producers? Meh… that’s their department, not mine… But I would have to say, “keep as much of the mystical/supernatural aspect as possible.” It’s a modern-gothic, urban and gritty with the shock and tragedy that causes people to watch houses burn and car crashes, but also offers the hope and encouragement people need to continue pressing forward and living another day.

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Don’t forget to check out this week’s Viral Video Wednesday and share your favorite video clips!

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Paperback: 498 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publish Date: 2005
ISBN: 9780316015844

“It’s not only your company I crave! Never forget that. Never forget I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else.”

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is the ultimate good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy story. Bella, daughter of the local police chief, fall for the mysterious Edward Cullen… whom she discovers is a vampire. It is everything I remember from being a teenager, some of it wonderfully nostalgic and some of it painfully annoying. While there were parts that dragged, and I honestly could have stopped at the hospital scene at the end… about 50 pages less than the final 498 pages, for the most part it was fun, arousing, and quite a page turner.

I definitely want to linger on the point of arousal. Twilightfull of the kind of sexual sensations I remember from being a teenager. The flutters of the attraction, new and exciting feelings, and the lingering over the first moments, uncertain and inexperienced about what comes next. The long lasting moments spent staring, lightly touching and feeling the skin of the object of one’s affection. All this innocent (or mostly innocent) pleasure before the actual end-run of sex becomes common and mechanical, losing all the magic it once held. I really enjoyed this aspect of Twilight.

“So what you’re saying is, I’m your brand of heroin?” I teased, trying to lighten the mood.
He smiled swiftly, seeming to appreciate my effort. “Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin.”
“Does that happen often?” I asked.
“Never.”

While Twilightis definitely no literary classic, for me there were aspects of other stories that are classics. I couldn’t help but see that obvious Romeo and Julietaspect of it. The fated lovers, separated by their identity (Capulet v. Montague, Human v. Vampire), brought together by their love. I also saw a parallel of Pride and Prejudice: Edward as a Darcy of sorts, loving Bella against all his better judgment, and Bella as an Elizabeth Bennett, opinionated, headstrong, and impossible for Edward (Darcy) to read.

It is definitely a YA fiction, but there is a lot in it for an adult to love, as well. I can, however see how it could seriously grate on a reader’s everlasting nerves. There is a soppy-sweetness to it that is, at times, indigestible. It’s a bit aggravating that Bella tends to be a bit dippy and put herself in dangerous situations… again and again. She could also stand to grow a spine, as she hooks up her potential suitors with her girlfriends instead of saying “No.” Damsels in Distress annoy me. But I couldn’t help loving Edward all the more for rescuing her. I couldn’t help, at thirty-four, imagining myself in the role of Bella.

He rolled his eyes and set his lips. “Bella, we’re not having this discussion anymore. I refuse to damn you to an eternity of night and that’s the end of it.”
“If you think that’s the end, then you don’t know me very well,” I warned him. “You’re not the only vampire I know”

With the end of Twilight, Meyer’s sets up New Moon with the possibility that Bella may get her way and become a vampire with Edward. This question is left hanging, and I have my suspicions it with remain so until Breaking Dawn. A new American Gothic, Twilight is a fun, fast read that will leave you thirsty for more. 😀 4 out of 5 stars.