Saturday, 31 December 2011

Book #99 Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey 

Those who know that I'm a Jane Austen fan are probably very surprised to discover that in spite of reading certain of her books more than once, I have not, and still have not read her entire output, of her completed novels I still have Mansfield Park remaining.

Like Miss Austen's other works, Northanger Abbey is a tale of a young woman with no particular fortune to speak of debuting in society and getting caught up in romantic intrigues so far, so Austen. Catherine Morland travels to Bath as a particular companion to neighbour Mrs Allen and establishes friendships with two families also sojourning in Bath, the Thorpe's and the Tilney's. After her stay in Bath, Catherine is granted the opportunity of a stay at the Tilney seat, the impressive Northanger Abbey.

The novel has two main successes : you care passionately enough about the characters to have the strong desire to reach into the book, physically shove John Thorpe and tell him to "Do One" or "Get Lost" in less Scouse terms. Henry Tilney is also a delightful hero, who makes you feel a bit warm and squishy inside, which is what you want from an Austen novel, essentially. 

There are two main drawbacks : The novel is clearly a parody upon Mrs Radcliffe's The Mystery Of Udolpho indeed it makes the point plain. I once tried to read said novel and did not succeed, primarily because the typeface on my edition was blindingly tiny. This parody at points proves slightly irritating. Austen also clearly has a bee in her bonnet and a personal point to make about the social opinions of the time regarding novels, particularly women's novels, and is using this novel as a vehicle to convey her opinions, when she should rather have written an Op-Ed for The Times or something.

The other drawback is a compliment - there just isn't enough Mr Tilney time, and Mr Tilney is awesome. I suppose the conclusion of the novel is rather inevitable, but I feel it's all done rather awkwardly, I mean, personally I wouldn't be able to see my father in law without feeling anger and mortification for the rest of his life, instead of humble gratitude, but I suppose that is how society has evolved for the better.

All in all enjoyable and sweet, and I should enjoy enormously an adaptation involving Benedict Cumberbatch as Tilney.  8/10

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