Thursday, 13 December 2012

Book 83 of 2012: Northanger Abbey

Somehow, in my youth, I managed to miss out on reading lots of these classic books. I was more into fact and fantasy than anything too old-fashioned, and as interested as I was in history, I just couldn't seem to get into anything by the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen. But over the last couple of years that's changed. Recently I've read Persuasion and I've read Wuthering Heights in preparation for my course, and it seems to have awoken something in me.

So when I needed a suitable book beginning with 'N' to complete my Autumn Challenge, I browsed through the free classics on Amazon, spotted Northanger Abbeyand thought 'what the heck'.
This book follows Catherine who comes from a well-off but not overly-rich family and who goes away to Bath with some family friends for a little break. While there she makes friends with Isabella Thorpe and meets Isabella's annoying older brother. She also makes the acquaintance of Henry Tilney, who is blatantly a much better make for Catherine than Thorpe. It's a nice little story, bobbing along as Catherine goes from Bath, to stay with Henry and his sister Eleanor, dealing with a bit of family drama before coming to a satisfying conclusion.

I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this. I really got into it and could have quite happily read it much quicker than I did. It's not really a very long book - mine was on the Kindle and it was only 171 pages. If I'd had a good quiet day to read it, I'd probably have done it in that time. I really liked the character of Catherine. I think part of the reason why I avoided these books when I was younger was because as a young teenager I wasn't really all that interested in boys and I thought that 90% of these stories were about girls moping after boys; while that can be an important part of the story, it's not the whole story.

Catherine seemed like a good strong character. She was quite complex, torn between what was right socially and what she wanted, as well as what other people wanted her to do and what she wanted herself. She desperately wanted to be liked and so was inclined to go along with what Isabella, Thorpe and her brother wanted, even though it wasn't necessarily what she wanted to do herself. It reminded me of situations I've been in myself and I thought I could relate to her well. It's funny considering how much I avoided Austen's books as a teenager, because I think this one would have had an important message for me.

Catherine is a bit flawed at times. I suppose part of that is because she's living in an era where there were certain standards and things that you could and couldn't say or do. She reads a lot and gets some funny ideas about things, in particular regarding General Tilney and his wife. It was kind of funny, but all the same, while I was reading it I was cringing, in a good way, because I was a bit embarrassed for her. It's probably a bizarre comparison, but she reminded me a bit of Mia in the Princess Diaries books, hehe.

Austen has a way of making the characters seem really real. You pretty much know as soon as the male love interest is introduced that he is going to be 'the one'. Henry Tilney is definitely that man; as soon as he appeared on the scene I kind of fell in love with him. In the same way, I totally disliked Thorpe from the start. I suppose in a way they were almost charicatures; one super nice, the other a huge creep, but I think it worked well and if I wasn't married and Henry Tilney showed up in my life, I'd be away with him in a heartbeat! Brand new fictional crush right there!

The ending felt a wee bit rushed, after all the build up, but I wonder how much of that was due to the posthumous publication of the book. Apparently it was the first book Austen completed for publication, but the bookseller it was sold to decided against publishing it and sold it back to Austen's brother, it was then revised and then published. I can't help but wonder if there was something missed out or changed at the end. All the same, I really loved it and I think this might actually be one of my favourite books that I've read this year!
"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine."
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  1. Eek Cait, hate to worry you but when I came in to look at this post the Malware warning we're getting from HTV flashed up, saying the page is infected. Also when this post appears in my reading list the pic of the book cover isn't there it's some acid smilie instead?

    1. I think maybe it's giving the warning because I copied the post from one I made on HTV and it seems to have copied the smilies over as well. I think that's maybe why it was just grinning madly.

      I've done a virus scan on my laptop and aside from some dodgy cookies everything seemed fine here, I'm sure it's linked to HTV, but I'm not sure exactly how I could get something on my blog. It's very strange.

  2. Hmm yes very weird. Funnily the moment this blog post was superceded/my reading list moved it off the top page, the threat went!
    Glad it all seems ok for you


Let me know what you think. :-)