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text 2018-11-08 05:40
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

I'm kind of reviewed out after Halloween Bingo so I probably won't review this one. Anyone who has ever brought up Austen in my general vicinity knows it's my favorite of her novels and I love it forever with five uncritical stars. And it qualifies for a festive task, so yay!

 

I'm using it to complete the book task for Día de los Muertos: Re-read an old favorite from a now-deceased author.

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review 2018-09-06 05:13
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Marilyn Butler,Claire Lamont

This book was lovely, unexpected fun. After reading Mansfield Park and Persuasion in recent years, I concluded that Jane Austen’s work was not for me: their characters seemed bloodless, their heroines prim and infallible, their subject matter a tedious catalogue of the social lives of the independently wealthy. But I may have fallen into the trap of judging an author by her worst works, having read her three most popular books while too immature a reader to judge them. Northanger Abbey, now: this book is just fun, a lively tale of a teenage girl discovering the world outside her town for the first time, falling in with some of the wrong people, having a bit of an adventure, all while the book pokes fun at melodramatic Gothic novels of the period.

Discussion of this book generally seems to revolve around Catherine’s wilder fantasies about Northanger Abbey, the home of some of her new friends, so I was surprised to find that this section is the smaller part of the book – most of which takes place in Bath – and the least convincing. Up to that point, Catherine is portrayed as a sensible if inexperienced girl, raised by an endearingly sensible mother (whose reaction to Catherine’s being sent on a sudden road trip alone by post is “well, that was strange and uncivil behavior on your host’s part, but now you’ve had to rely on yourself and managed, which is good for you"). On arriving at the abbey she abruptly throws common sense to the winds, only to regain it just as rapidly after a talking-to, the gist of which is “be sensible, those terrible things couldn’t happen here in England.”

That said, I enjoyed Catherine as a protagonist; she’s a naïve but appealing teenage girl, capable of standing up for herself and going after what she wants and not intended to be a paragon. The secondary cast is also strong, with believable and incisive characterization despite the book’s relatively short length. And I found Austen’s wit genuinely humorous, particularly enjoying the passages contrasting the characters’ real-life behavior with novelistic expectations. Here, for instance, is Catherine encountering her crush in public:

“He looked as handsome and as lively as ever, and was talking with interest to a fashionable and pleasing-looking young woman, who leant on his arm, and whom Catherine immediately guessed to be his sister; thus unthinkingly throwing away a fair opportunity of considering him lost to her for ever, by being married already.”

This book may be 200 years old, but it sped by for me. Life is an adventure for Catherine, and that energy seems to transmit itself to the pages. Perhaps I should be giving Austen more credit.

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review 2018-08-16 06:50
Fun running over tropes
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Marilyn Butler,Claire Lamont

Why did I take this long to read this? From Austen's big six, this is the last I got to. I mean, I know what my reasoning was: satire and humour was not what I was looking for when I searched for an Austen volume. But I was wrong to, because this was a great romp.

 

(On that note, one day I have to write long and hard on how the prominence of Pride and Prejudice in pop-media puts an expectation on what Austen writes about that is a total disservice to her body of work)

 

If you put this and Persuasion together, it's impossible to ignore that the woman's common thread is not romance, but social critique, and tropes and expectations. In this one she takes Gothic literature ones, and more than run with them, runs them over. Anne Brontë kinda did that in a very understated way. There is nothing understated here, and I was laughing from the opening lines alone... Actually, the overall initial setting is quite similar to Brontë's Agnes Grey's opening, just, you know, absolutely savage. Much like the whole book.

 

The charming part comes from Catherine being a sincerely good-natured soul, and pretty sensible on the whole, so even where she hypes herself from much sensational reading (and hell, like nobody ever got jumpy in the night after reading or watching some horror), and builds some weird fantasies on it, she never quite finds herself carried away on over-dramatic feelings of angst, be it romantic or otherwise. Even when other characters ask about them on hilariously detailed, over the top descriptions.

 

I get now why it is the favourite Austen among many. I had lots of fun with it.

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text 2018-08-16 03:55
Reading progress update: I've read 175 out of 254 pages.
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Marilyn Butler,Claire Lamont

*chortle* This girl has gone quixotic.

 

At first she got embarrassed when her flights of fancy got shot-down by pedestrian reality, but now! She can't even recognize deep grief.

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text 2018-08-15 06:06
Reading progress update: I've read 102 out of 254 pages.
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Marilyn Butler,Claire Lamont

Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

 

Ah, wow. There is Austen's cynicism in all it's glory

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