Friday, October 04, 2013
Northanger Abbey begins with Catherine Morland's visit to Bath. Catherine is the daughter of a very large family in a rural area who has seen very little of the world, and Bath brings many new opportunities. She meets a best friend, Isabella, and relishes the pleasure it brings her to have a confidante. She also finds herself in the attentions of two very different men -- Isabella's pushy, talkative brother, John, and a clergyman named Henry Tilney. Catherine's ideas of romance are very much influenced by the book Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, and they color some of her experiences throughout the book.
One of my favorite things about Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen's unmitigated sarcasm. She constantly describes how Catherine is not a proper heroine, whether through being merely conventionally pretty (when she is having a good day) or through not jumping to the most dramatic of conclusions when her lover is late to call. Austen is clearly making fun of herself throughout the book. I also really loved the way Catherine's imagination runs away with her as she reads Udolpho -- and the way Henry eggs her on, planting ideas in her imagination that lead her to pass a few very freaked out nights in Northanger Abbey.
I also loved the relationship dynamic of the book. I don't know how many of my readers are familiar with Brigham Young University, where I received my first college degree, but it is known to those who have attended as a bit of a bizarre dating sphere. Everyone is looking for a spouse, deny it as they might (and, I'll confess, I found mine there), and people wind up dating a variety of people, some of whom are dreamy, some of whom are, well, interesting. John Thorpe reminded me so much of a few people that I went on first dates with there -- refusing to take no for an answer, talking up his own accomplishments so incessantly that they cease to impress, leading others to think that you are in a serious relationship, etc. It brought back all the awkwardness and emphasized the humor.
I also liked that Northanger Abbey was short and light to read. It was just what I needed. While it lacks the sweeping romance of Pride and Prejudice, it is enjoyable and will bring a laugh. It also has just enough Gothic charm to fit well with the Halloween season. I recommend picking it up this October!