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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey -  Marilyn Butler,  Jane Austen

Enjoyed it more than Emma but less than Mansfield Park.

 

Critics argue that Northanger Abbey would be better placed among Jane Austen's juvenilia, and while I'm hardly qualified to disagree, I found it to be overall a well-written book save for the character development.  In this area, the book proclaims itself loudly to be a very early effort.  With the exception of the Thorpe siblings, I thought most of the characters rather bland; I never felt any sense of them as fully fleshed-out people.  Indeed, I didn't even really like either Catherine or Henry.

 

The exception, as I said, being the Thorpe siblings.  Jane Austen shows herself something of a prodigy in creating villains.  Isabelle feels like a Lucy Steele prototype, whereas Mr. Thorpe - well, I just wanted to be able to pull out his parts of the book and throw them across the room at the wall.  I found him more asinine and odious than any other Austen villain I've read yet.  Willoughby and Wickham were sly, weak and manipulative, but Thorpe is an ass.

 

As I write this, it occurs to me too that Northanger Abbey lacks the understated drama her later works seem to excel at; Lady Catherine's arrival at the Bennet house comes to mind, as does the moment Lucy Steele shocks everyone and turns everything upside down.  There are never any turning points in this book; Isabella's letter failed to make any real impression on me and I found myself strangely unresponsive to Catherine's departure from the Abbey.

 

What I wasn't expecting – but was highly entertained by – was the level of satire and parody in Northanger Abbey; Miss Austen takes a good whack at gothic romances, while staunchly defending novels against critics who disparaged them and their readers as being low.  Also, Jane Austen's own voice, as narrator, is clear as a bell throughout the book, commenting directly to the reader on more than one occasion.  

 

I rated Northanger Abbey four stars because in spite of how it might have compared to her later works, I didn't want to put the book down; I wanted to just stay lost in Regency Bath and the Abbey until the very last (somewhat unsatisfying) page.