It’s quite amazing, isn’t it, the difference a second impression can make?
The first time I read “Northanger Abbey”, I found Catherine to be a little boring, the plot to be a little forgettable and the Thorpe clan to be heartless little pricks, the lot of them.
Reading “Northanger Abbey” a second time left my feelings unchanged on that last point – on the first two, however, they had undergone a distinct transformation. Catherine no longer seemed boring – only endearing in her innocence, naiveté, and ingenuity. And while the plot wasn’t as intricate or well-developed as Austen’s other novels, I can wager that I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. The novel lacks the substance and polish of her other works, but it will still hold a place on my bookshelf as it only serve to reveal yet another aspect of Austen’s character. And what Austen fan can resist such temptation? Not this one, reader.
I’m always a little surprised at the change of feelings I undergo regarding Austen’s novels. It seems I’m always unimpressed with Austen the first time around, while the second reading leaves me fawning over her creations and execution.
This is also true of “Pride & Prejudice. I think I’ll just have to chalk that up to my slowly developing brain.
I relished this reading of “Northanger Abbey” as it had been quite awhile ago I last read it. And as I wasn’t too impressed by Catherine and her story at the time, I’d forgotten much of the interactions that take place between the characters. I have to say that made for a novel reading experience for me; novel because it felt as if I was reading an Austen for the first time, and as any Austen fan knows that with only six of her novels to drool over, this is a rare experience and one to be cherished.
It was so enjoyable for me, made even more enjoyable by Henry Tilney. Now he’s no Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth, but he’s oh so attractive in his own way and bless me if the man isn’t snarky! (A snarky Austen hero? Be still my beating heart!) He was by far my favorite character in the novel. I absolutely loved his sense of humor, and found myself able to relate to his general silliness and playful sarcasm. I had a smile on my face every time he walked onto the page.
As for Catherine, while she is not as impressive as Austen’s other heroines, she does manage to hold her own with a strength that is quite admirable. I spent the first half the novel cringing at Isabella and John’s ministrations, and Catherine’s blindness to them. And if I wasn’t cringing, then I was worried that Catherine wouldn’t be able to fend off the Thorpes and would allow their manipulations to estrange her from the Tilneys forever. I was so afraid for her! But, she managed to surprise me and stand strong against the combined forces of John, Isabella and even her own brother James (who by the way, displayed far too little sense to please me). Catherine is definitely the naive, fresh-faced heroine – not altogether a bad combination, except when she’s jumping to the most ridiculous conclusions based on the flimsiest of evidence. Her thought process when condemning General Tilney was a little painful to read – something which Austen intended, no doubt. There was a point when I wanted to whack the girl over the head and tell her to open her eyes. Thankfully Henry Tilney was there do that for me (minus, the whacking the head part).
The secondary characters are also present, in all their usual Austenian splendor. Ever wondered if there is a woman to rival Mrs. Bennet in ridiculousness? Then Mrs. Allen is the woman for you – that woman talks of nothing but muslins, and I found her very self-absorbed. At least, part of Mrs. Bennet’s silliness springs from her desire to see her daughters well-settled. Not so with Mrs. Allen; she is childless, and she might as well be husbandless and friendless for all the care she bestows them. She manages to manipulate any conversation so that no matter what you were discussing before, you always end up with MUSLINS. There. That rant alone should be enough to convince you how realistically Austen is able to draw her characters (realistic enough for me to start shuddering every time Mrs. Allen walks onto the scene).
Overall, this is a quick, enjoyable read with plenty of opportunities for some chuckles, a bit of romance, and a dolloping of Austen’s snarky wit. Need I say more?
3.5 out of 5 Japanese cabinets.