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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The Sunday Salon ~ Jane Austen and Henry III in a throw down… who’d win?

The Sunday Salon.com

Read.  Read read read read read.  and then Read some more.  Having been distracted by life and video games, it would seem that the end of the year has snuck up on me.. again.  This is very familiar.  It seems that I was racing to the end of the year last December, as well, only Second Life was my distractor then… World of Warcraft has done it this year (the facebook games don’t help, either).  But I think I’ll make the 75-book goal this year.  I’ve already read more this year than last.  I ended with 63 last year, but I’ve read 71 already, and with only eleven more days to go, I’m confident I’ll hit 75.

This week I finished three books ~

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is the fifth of the sixth Jane Austen novels.  Though it was written first, it was published, posthumously, next to last.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have to admit that it’s my new Austen favorite.  I crushed harder on Henry Tilney than I did on Mr. Darcy, and that’s saying something.  Tilney has a bit of an edge over Darcy… Henry is actually a nice person, as well as being funny and smart.  Darcy, while sweet in his private way, was a bit of an ass.  I guess that went along well with Elizabeth, since she liked to jump to conclusions and was a bit proud herself, but it did a little to put one off.  Of course, the ingenue.. the innocent, country flower.. who is a blank slate and, therefore, non-threatening to Tilney’s intellectual authority, ready and willing to be molded by him, which suits his fancy, I think. 

All in all, I enjoyed Austen’s wit and sarcasm, as well as her parody of Gothic novels of her day.

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar is a humorous walk through many schools of philosophy.  The authors, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, use jokes to illustrate what each school of thought is about.  Like with Teleology, the philosophy that all things exist for a purpose, one joke used to illustrate this is:

Mrs. Goldstein was walking down the street with her two grandchildren.  A friend stopped to ask her how old they were.  She replied, “The doctor is five and the lawyer is seven.”

I also finished my appointment read, Three to Get Deadly, the third book in the Stephanie Plum numbers series by Janet Evanovich.  I’d been missing Stephanie lately, so I picked this, the next in the series for me, up to read when I was away from home.  I learned an important lesson with it.  Just because a book can fit in your coat pocket doesn’t mean it’s a good appointment book.  By the time I’d gotten to the end of the book, I’d forgotten some of the beginning.  Also, it lost a bit of it’s momentum this way.  In the future, I think I’ll stick to short stories for appointment books.

I’ll write up real reviews for these books later this week… I hope.  I’ve already jumped into my next book, and I’m about 40 pages in it already.  Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert is the second of the Dune series.  I read the first book earlier this year, and I was in the mood for a good sci-fi book, so I picked this up.  I had forgotten how fascinating and fantastic the first book had been, and the second book is, so far, every bit as good.  It is also, however, as much a thinking book as the first.  My brain hurts after a while.   Trying to picture Edric, the fishy-humanoid Guildsman in his tank… picturing the Tleilaxu Face Dancer Scytale manipulate his physical body to be one form one second, then turn into the ghola version of Duncan Idaho (also a mind-bender of a thought), then back again… it’s all an exercising of my imagination muscles… both enjoyable and tiring at the same time.

Reading may be a little easier to do here… but I won’t guarantee it.  Sam, my oldest, has gone to her dad’s for the two-week vacation, and Gwen will go closer to Christmas day, but only stay gone for a week.  Maggie, however, will be here throughout, as her dad has moved back to town.  She’s happy about this, but it has it’s downside, too.  He’s here more, which means he’s nit-picking about my housekeeping more… which means less time to read.   And it means that he no longer needs to take her home with him to spend time, since he can see her whenever he wants. 

LOL.. the remainder of my reading may be Magic Treehouse books with Maggie.

I’ve been watching the Tudors, also.  I got hooked on it when I was sick with the flu last month.  I watched Seasons 1 and 2 straight through on Netflix’s Instant thing.  When the third season came out on DVD this past week, it was on the top of my queue.  I watched the first two discs last night, but I’ll have to wait for the third to come on Monday.  Watching it reminds me how we tend to judge history with modern day values.  Henry VIII was quite a tyrant through 21st century eyes, but was he all that bad or different in his own time-frame?  Sure, he had the north of England hung without trial for rebellion, but the Catholic Church had the Inquisition.  I suppose it all balances out.

I have to admit to a bit of cheating.  I had forgotten which wife Henry took after Jane, so I watched this video.  Now the rest of this season’s lost all suspense for me! 

Happy Reading and have a safe and Merry Christmas, everyone!