I am almost a complete novice when it comes to Jane Austen’s books. Last year I skimmed through Pride and Prejudice and liked it but I kept imagining the movie and tv versions the whole way through. I have watched the BBC’s version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle many times, absolutely love it and have also seen the later movie a couple of times as well so it was hard to assess the actual book.
I didn’t really fancy reading Northanger Abbey just now. I am waiting for a swashbuckling true adventure/spy book to arrive from Green Metropolis and in anticipating reading that book, a gentle classic didn’t seem that appealing. But, once I got started I found it a really absorbing book.
Jane Austen’s heroine in this story is Catherine Morland, an ordinary 17 year old, full of enthusiasm about a pending trip to Bath with Mr and Mrs Allen, trusted friends of the family. Once in Bath she makes the acquaintance of two sets of brothers and sisters, the Thorpes and the Tilney’s. Her relationship with each of these four characters makes up most of the story and on the invitation of General Tilney she finds herself a guest for several weeks at their family home, Northanger Abbey. Encouraged by her new friend Isabella Thorpe, Catherine has been reading some gothic horror novels, in particular “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Ann Radcliffe and finds herself completely carried away by the dark corridors, sinister looking chests and locked rooms of the abbey coupled with the pre requisite howling wind and creaky floorboards in the dead of night.
I’m not sure why I enjoyed this quite as much as I did. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters and thought the romance in the story was a bit understated. I much preferred Pride and Prejudice on that one! I found some of the narration quite wordy and am not sure what I thought of the author popping up every now and again with her thoughts on the heroine. But I did find myself getting very involved with the characters, more than I have in a while and was almost shouting at the book at one point – when Isabella and John Thorpe were each trying to railroad Catherine into doing what they wanted. Catherine’s naievity was charming but also so frustrating! I guess that is the sign of a good book though if it produces that sort of reaction.
I enjoyed the whole gothic sense to the book and had fun imagining Northanger Abbey with all its apparent secrets.
So, I haven’t fallen in love with Jane Austen just yet but am looking forward to reading another of her books soon. I think that out of curiosity I will have to add The Mysteries of Udolpho to my TBR list.