Monday, January 6, 2014

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (audio)

genre: fiction
where it came from: I listened to the audio on my library app but the book was given to me by my friend Aubree who ordered a giant box of random books and she already had this one

Catherine Morland, reader of Gothic Novels, excited first-time visitor to Bath, ready for excitement and society.  She is our heroine, or, rather, she is meant to be our heroine.  She isn't particularly "heroine" like - not quite pretty enough, not quite wealthy enough, but she does just fine.  Our author assures us that even though she doesn't fit the typical heroine mold, she will still have a pleasing story.  And pleasing it is - a story of miscommunication and misunderstanding, a story of obnoxious suitors and both fine and fickle friends.  In the parlors and pump rooms of Bath and the halls of Northanger Abby, Catherine is forced to reign in her imagination so that she can hopefully find the kind of love that thrills her in novels.

Oh, Jane Austen.  You clever woman.  The magic of this book isn't the book itself but what our author is telling us about books in general - in particular, the gristly Gothic novels of the time.  She speaks to us in the first person, narrating and commenting on the plot, on the characters, on their follies and personalities and circumstances.  She uses her own characters to mock the wide-eyed heroine who exposes the abandoned chest in the closet and Catherine does take the brunt of Austen's criticism.  It's done in such a hearty way, though, so clearly acknowledging the lack of brain power required to enjoy and loose yourself in those novels, that it's a pleasure to read.

I will, however, say that sometimes her narration left me a bit disappointed in the sense that she skipped over things I'd liked to have heard.  I am so fond of Darcy's and, especially, Captain Wentworth's declarations of love but with Catherine's Henry Tilney, we are just told that he made a declaration.  We didn't get to hear it ourselves.  Boo.  As far as storyline and romance and climax, it's not as wonderful as her others but I am still glad to have read it.  This is the last of Austen's books for me to read, and while Persuasion is still my favorite, Northanger Abbey definitely is set apart as one of the more unique narrative styles I've ever read.

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