Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: "Northanger Abbey" Classic a Month #9.2014

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
3 out of 5 stars

I hate to say it, but this book was boring for me. I actually started it once and had to put it down for a week or two. I know this is a lot of people's favorite Austen book but it just wasn't for me. It's a very quiet story and despite the promising Goodreads summary, not a lot happens.

"Jane Austen's "Gothic parody". Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers..."

So that makes you expect an almost scary story with maybe some murder thrown in, right? Nope, sorry. You get a few misdirections and spine-shivering moments, but that's it. Catherine Morland is the "heroine" of this story, really just in her own mind though. She is a plain, average girl from a plain, average family, who of course wants her grand romantic gesture, just like any girl. At the age of seventeen, Catherine is lucky enough to have kind and thoughtful neighbors who invite her to the city of Bath for the summer. There, she is sure to meet her dashing hero and have her happily ever after.

The first half of the book centers on her stay in Bath and her first time in "society". She immediately befriends a young woman named Isabella who is exactly the type of girl that Catherine thinks she wants to be. Beautiful, popular, and a horrendous flirt. Isabella takes a liking to Catherine's brother, especially when she thinks he comes from money. She uses her feminine wiles to ensnare him along with his sister. Catherine, being a naive country girl, does not realize she is being used and spends most of the story defending her bosom friend. Until Isabella dumps Catherine's brother for someone better and richer. Cow. Add that to the fact that Isabella's brother likes Catherine and is horribly dull, and that whole family can just go away now please.

Catherine also meets a young man named Henry Tilney, who has the potential to be her dashing hero. He was one of the best parts of the story. His dry wit and quiet sarcasm were quite refreshing. Yes, quite. Mr Tilney also has a sister, Eleanor, who is very nice and quiet, the opposite of Isabella. This book could almost be a story of sibling relationships. It might have been more interesting.

The second half of the book takes Catherine to the Tilney's abbey home, where her imagination runs rampant, due to all the gothic romances she reads. Reading will always get you in trouble, am I right? ;) There is a strong prejudice against "fluffy" novels throughout the book: "real men" do not read such nonsense, women must be ashamed of it, etc... Henry adds another notch to his eligibility belt with this little passage with Catherine:

C: "But you never read novels, I dare say?"
H: "Why not?"
C: "Because they are not clever enough for you-gentlemen read better books."
H: "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."

Henry encourages Catherine's imaginings by telling her a mysterious story on the way to the abbey and of course she jumps to all kinds of conclusions, especially concerning his dead mother. Henry's dad is not the most pleasant person and Catherine just assumes he had a hand in his wife's untimely death. She is wrong of course and Henry corrects her very harshly. All is forgiven eventually and the two young people grow fond of each other and things look promising.

Then Henry's dad gets some mis-information from Isabella's spurned brother and basically kicks Catherine out of his home. She goes back home broken-hearted and unable to even speak to Henry before she leaves. Luckily, he finds out what happened and rushes off to see her and make things right. And Catherine gets her dashing hero and happily ever after. The End.

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