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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is probably the least well regarded novel of the 6. I really like it. She manages to steer a middle path between parodying the trend for Gothic novels but at the same time supporting the novel writer's art. Catherine Morland visits Bath in the company of her friends Mr and Mrs Allen. How she makes friends with the Thorpes - Isabella and John - and the Tilneys - Eleanor and Henry and learns the difference between friends who have her best interests at heart and those who don't makes an amusing story.

Isabella must be one of the most manipulative, simpering and silly women in Austen's books. Yes she has to make a reasonably wealthy marriage - having no fortune of her own - but to behave how she does is not the best way to achieve that aim. The misunderstandings about everyone's relative wealth and status are the sub text for the love story of Henry and Catherine. Ultimately it does not matter to Henry how much Catherine's fortune is because he has enough money of his own, but others in the story such as his father, have other opinions.

Catherine is not typical heroine material, as her creator acknowledges, but I found myself warming to her as she tries to make sense of her world. Her journey home on her own shows she is made of sterner stuff than the average heroine. Her civil manners and generous tipping provide her with good care and treatment as she has to sort out hiring her own post horses - a frightening prospect for a young girl of 17 in the early 19th century.

I have Persuasion, the Juvenilia, Sanditon, The Watsons and Lady Susan left to read. I have read Persuasion before - though not for many years - the rest I have not read, so that is a treat in store.

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