Friday, February 16, 2007

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Title: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: Catherine vacations first in Bath, then is invited to Northanger Abbey where her heart is won, broken and redeemed.

The Take-Away: Even though this book was written during the Victorian era of England's history, I'd like to highlight several modern aspects that we would consider good.

Tagless dialogue. No weird adverbs or alternatives like "stated, replied, cried," etc. Long sections were completely tagless, leaving the speaker's voice to identify themselves. Some of the interchanges were too long and a tag or two would have made sure I was still reading it accurately.

If I recall right, Emma "cries" frequently. As in "Clever dialogue of somesort," cried Emma. I'll verfy that once I re-read it.

The other bit that really struck me was how little people change. Check out this exchange between Catherine, our heroine, and her friend Isabella.

"But I thought, Isabella, you had something in particular to tell me?"

"Oh! Yes, and so I have. But here is a proof of what I was saying. My poor head, I had quite forgot it. Well, the thing is this: I have just had a letter from John; you can guess the contents."

"No, indeed, I cannot."

"My sweet love, do not be so abominably affected. What can he write about, but yourself? You know he is over head and ears in love with you."

"With me, dear Isabella!"

"Nay, my sweetest Catherine, this is being quite absurd! Modesty, and all that, is very well in its way, but really a little common honesty is sometimes quite as becoming. I have no idea of being so overstrained! It is fishing for compliments. His attentions were such as a child must have noticed. And it was but half an hour before he left Bath that you gave him the most positive encouragement. He says so in this letter, says that he as good as made you an offer, and that you received his advances in the kindest way; and now he wants me to urge his suit, and say all manner of pretty things to you. So it is in vain to affect ignorance."

Isabella is clearly in control of the situation. She feels that she is more worldly than Catherine, especially in matters of love. Most women will tell you that this sort of thing is frequent, and not just in the literature that they read.

And while scandals abound, everything is resolved happily by the end of the novel, in spite of the misinformation that one character insists upon spreading (I'll let you figure out who it is.)

An interesting point about Austen's technique. The conflict is well established, the characters are consistent to themselves, but the ending falls. Instead of showing the events, as she did up to and through the climax, the ending is a series of author intrusions that tell the events. If she had stuck with showing how it worked out instead, it would have been a better novel. Sequentially, this was one of the first written, but latter published. Austen does a better job as she grows as a writer.

Recommendation: An appreciation for classics is a requirement, but there are good things in here too for the modern reader.

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Anonymous said...

This review was hilarious...

First, the Victorian Period was from 1837-1901. Austen lived and died during the Regency Period (just before the Victorian era) and died a full 20 years before the Victorian era was under way.

Secondly, this book is a satire. She was spoofing the histrionic Gothic romance style of authors like Ann Radcliffe. Austen's heroines, though of a romantic bent, never run mad or faint. A little research in the genre will make the novel much more enjoyable.

slpenney said...


True, it's pre-Victorian, but often grouped in as it represents the style of novels from that period. The definitions differ slightly for literature versus history.

Her social commentary is what makes the novel.

Stacy said...

I love Northanger Abbey. It's one of my top three Austen novels even though most people don't like it. You're completely right about the ending though.

slpenney said...

It's hard to say which is my favorite since she only finished six.

Either Mansfield Park or P&P

Ruthie Black naked said...

Lordy, beautiful blog!

I'll put NORTHANGER ABBEY on my list. I'm like you, I think characters are EVERYTHING in a story.
Like me, you are a "character" yourself, I'll bet.