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 -Holidays

Booking Through Thursday

It’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S., so let’s keep today’s question simple–What are you reading? Anything special? Any particularly juicy summer reading?

Oh good golly! I have been busy with the Jane-a-thon, and have finished Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park. I’m just about cross-eyed from Austen. I had forgotten how different the language is! Austen English and American modern English are at times so different it’s almost like a foreign language. I cannot tell you how many times a character has commented about another by saying, “You look fagged!” meaning “you look tired”, and Lady Bertram’s proclamation, “I am so very stupid!” wasn’t a self-deprecating comment (could that even be possible? She never wanted for self-esteem.), she was just commenting on feeling sleepy. Anyway, I think I’ll take in a few modern reads before returning to Austen-land (I’ve got that book on Mt. TBR, too.) and reading Emma.

I’ve already been cheating on Jane anyway. I’ve been reading Nam Le’s The Boat. I really love it. It’s compelling and sucks you in. Remember the Tom Riddle’s Diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? The boat pulls you into the lives and events in the pages like Riddle’s diary. The Boat is a book of vignette-like short stories about characters from different parts of the world. The first story has enough reality and truth that I wonder if it is a recounting of a real occurrence between Nam and his Ba (father in Vietnamese). I’m dying to throw Jane over so I can dedicate myself to Nam. Yes, he's that good!

I also picked up a book at Waldenbooks Tuesday called Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers by Fancesca Gould. It’s GROSS. It’s TRIVIA. It’s GROSS TRIVIA! It’s chalk full of nasty facts like various uses for human flesh, ie book covers, furniture and suits (I ate his liver with some favre beans and a nice Chianti *slff-fff-fff-fff*) I’m going back tomorrow and get a second copy to giveaway with the review. It’s a really fun book to have and read to people Bwaa-haa-haa

Yesterday, like several other bloggers, I received an email saying my review for The White Mary by Kira Salak is wanted. So that ARC is top o’ the Mount. I read the introduction today and it sounds really intense. So I’ll be hopping to on that one.

Other books to be read very soon are: Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant and Khaled Housseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. I will also be reading Dick Gibson’s Rob Grant Trilogy, then offering the set as a giveaway.

Other things worth mentioning: I have added a couple pages and sidebar boxes. Be sure to check out the Giveaways and Contests page, there are a lot of free books to be had! I’ve also posted my inventory of Mt. TBR… feel free to suggest what I should read next. And check out the authors box on to the right. I haven’t got many yet, but check back from time to time as I add more.

Last but not least, don’t forget to enter to win a $20 Borders gift card in My First Ever Giveaway!

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility

“You have no confidence in me, Marianne.”
“Nay, Elinor, this reproach from you – you who have confidence in no one!”
“Me!” returned Elinor in some confusion. “Indeed, Marianne, I have nothing to tell.”
“Nor I,” answered Marianne with energy. “We have neither of us anything to tell; you, because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.”

Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel, and, as writing wasn’t considered something a “proper” woman would do, it was released anonymously as simply “by a lady”. It was never expected by Jane or her family to do well, and they were shocked when it sold out within two years.

Sense and Sensibility is the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who couldn’t be more different. Elinor prefers decorum and reserve, biting her tongue and following the rules or polite society. Marianne, on the other hand, is passionate, impulsive, and speaks her mind, society be damned.

When it is revealed to Elinor in confidence that Lucy is engaged to the man Elinor loves, it is a crushing blow. She cannot relieve herself of this burden by “getting it off her chest” because she has promised Lucy to tell no one on her honor. In contrast, when Marianne discovers the man who made promises of love to her by his actions is to wed another, she falls into an uncontrollable downward spiral of depression, at one point nearly dying from the sorrow.

Both sisters approach life from different view points, both thinking the other wrong for theirs. But in the end, like most black-and-white views, they come to realize the validity of the other’s point.

What is interesting to me is that I have read this book twice in my life: the first time when I was about 21 or so, the second one now, on the precipice of 35 (my birthday is in four days). At each point in time, I have been first Marianne and now Elinor. I, like Marianne, had to learn that passion burns fast and leaves you with nothing but an empty stomach and disconnect notices. Like Marianne, I also had to learn that a handsome face that spews sweet words and then disappears like a fall-morning fog when the sun comes out cannot compare to an average man who’s not quite so eloquent but is there for the long hall and can be trusted.

The main points I think Austen was making in this book is that the society of her time was too quick to judge and condemn a woman for doing the same thing it found amusing in its men. A woman who expressed her mind was considered ill bread and of low-class, whereas a man doing the same thing went to Parliament.

Austen shows the results of society’s double standards with the dinner party at the Dashwood’s party. As the women are sitting at dinner, Austen describes the conniving thoughts behind Mrs. Ferrar’s behavior and treatment of Lucy over Elinor, whom she believes is trying to trap her son into marriage (Lucy is really the one she should worry about, yet she unwittingly encourages her in order to humilate Elinor). An argument begins over whose son is taller, Fanny’s or Lady Middleton’s, and lines are drawn, offending each other, in an attempt to gain superiority.

Ultimately, of course, love wins out, wrongs are righted, and justice is served.