Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

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Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 1818

It's about: This novel is about the misadventures of one Catherine Morland, a seventeen-year-old, naive, and emotional young woman who expects the world to be exactly as it is in her favorite Gothic novels. She visits Bath where she meets some new friends, including the manipulative Isabella Thorpe and intriguing Henry Tilney and his sister. Henry's father invites Catherine to come stay with his family at Northanger Abbey, where Catherine expects to find ghosts, poisons, blood, and other spooky/wierd things. Not surprisingly, the Abbey is nothing like Catherine expects, although this world of the Jane Austen novel is everything you would expect, including titillated young girls, handsome, witty, and wealthy young men, silk dresses, carriage rides, and wedding bells.

I thought:
Ultimately, I'm glad that I read this book. As I had expected, there were many things I wasn't so excited about but also a few things that I did like.

First of all, I hate when novels end with a marriage. Getting married just isn't the ultimate goal and pinnacle of life. I'm also not so interested in the minutiae of social life that Austen describes. So and so has this much money, wears clothes of such and such fabric and style, rooms handsomely furnished, blahblah. It seems like every page has a sentence like "'Oh! But you musn't!' she cried." I have studied Jane Austen before in a few classes  and I readily admit that she is a very good writer. The style and narrative structure of her novels is simply just not my taste.

But besides that, I did like the way Austen portrayed Catherine, a girl with a sensitive disposition affected by all of the gothic novels that she reads. I'm sorry but I have to say, gothic novels ... GAG. I despise gothic literature. According to Wikipedia, gothic literature is "a genre of literature that combines both horror and romance." In my opinion, horror and romance have little aesthetic merit when they exist in and of themselves. There are people out that that I respect who like gothic literature, and it may have its merits, but my opinion of it is pretty much on par with Twilight. So think of it this way: this book is about a girl who has read too many Twilight books and expects her true love to be just like Edward.*

Verdict: In between. I don't want to put this one in the rubbish bin because, even if I didn't like the writing, I admit that it was well written, and I appreciated the message (besides the marriage part.)

Reading Recommendations: If you like Jane Austen, you should definitely read this.

Warnings: None, I guess.

Favorite excerpts:
Charming as were all Mrs. Radcliffe's works, and charming even as were the works of all her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for. Of the Alps and Pyrenees, with their pine forests and their vices, they might give a taithful delineation; and Italy, Switzerland, and the South of France, might be as fruitful in horrors as the were there represented. Catherine dared not doubt beyond her own country, and even of that, if hard pressed, would have yielded the northern and western extremities.

What I'm reading next: Composing a Life by Catherine Bateson

*Note: I think it is fine to read books purely for entertainment, including gothic novels and even Twilight. My criticism is of those who engage with these kinds of books to the extreme that they begin base their entire outlook on life on them.