Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey (Audio)

Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen

Narrator: Various


First Published: 1817

Running time: 8hr 12min 02sec

Format: Audio Book

Rating: 8/10

With its loveable, impressionable heroine and its themes of growing up and learning to live in the real world, "Northanger Abbey" remains one of Jane Austen's most irresistible and up-to-date novels. Catherine Morland is the very ideal of a nice girl from a happy family, but she is blessed with an overactive imagination. She is also obsessed with lurid Gothic novels, where terrible things happen to the heroine, which gets her into all sorts of trouble...When Catherine meets funny, sharp Henry Tilney, she's instantly taken with him. But when she is invited to his home, the sinister Northanger Abbey, her preoccupation with fantasy starts to get in the way of reality. Will she learn to separate out the two in time?

Despite the fact that there are frequent sections of the narrative that basically go, "I'm going to tell you about such-and-such now, because you need to understand how they are to judge their later actions", I'm finding this a lot easier than I did Emma when I read that last year. There's a definite feel of "outsider looking in", but I think that adds to it, rather than detracting, in this case.

There was a rather annoying section where almost an entire chapter was given over to a commentary on the merits of novels which was completely
outwith the context of the plot. I found it quite frustrating and "blethery" as I just wanted to get back to what little action there is. That said, there's much more happening here than there was in Emma (which I found decidedly dull and devoid of any action), although the titular Abbey isn’t even mentioned until chapter 17!

This is much darker than Austen’s other novels, although there is a lot of light
humour as she parodies the gothic novels mentioned within the tale (such as The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe) and confronts serious themes such as the often conflicting getting wed for love versus marrying for money and power, and the dangers of letting one’s imagination make things seem as they are not. Although firmly constrained by the intricate rules and structure of high society, the characters are all beautifully flawed and the story itself is wonderfully animated.

If you have suffered previous disappointments with classic novels, this could be the one to make you consider giving them a second chance.


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