I just love this book. *happy sigh* Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting Austen in August, and this is my contribution. I was lucky and got to read most of it while I was away for a couple of days, so I just sat and read large chunks at a time--something I practically never do. It was great!
I'm not going to reiterate the plot, since just about everybody knows it and if you don't you can easily look it up. I'm going to talk about Catherine for a minute. She is so breathtakingly young and naive! Yes, she is only 17, but really it's mostly because she has lived deep in the country her whole life and hasn't known very many people. She has a small circle of acquaintance, and they are all 'prosy' sorts of people. To the modern reader, Catherine's incredible naivete must seem rather unlikely, but I don't think Austen is exaggerating.
In Bath, Catherine meets a whole lot of new people, and she simply doesn't understand them at first. She believes whatever they say, which is a mistake with John and Isabella Thorpe. John Thorpe may be the most irritating male character in Austen's books; I just want to smack him. Isabella is a bit cleverer than her brother, but still, her manipulations and hypocrisy are transparent to everyone but the too-honest Morland siblings, and even Catherine figures her out before very long.
If the Thorpe siblings are an Awful Warning, the Tilneys are a pattern to follow. Older than Catherine, they are better-educated and more acquainted with the world, so they can teach her how to cope. Most importantly, they are truly good people--considerate and kind. Catherine is safe with them.
The elements of humor, parodying Gothic novels, never fail to crack me up. It probably helps that I read so much Gothic last fall, but this time I think I noticed it more than ever. Catherine is humiliated when she realizes that she has been getting carried away by her imagination--as if such things could happen in modern England!--but General Tilney turns out to be just as bad as she had thought, only with modern English methods.
Somebody, I presume the BBC, made a movie of Northanger Abbey a couple of years ago. I thought it was really well-done; Catherine and Isabella are wonderful. It's been a long time since I saw it; I wonder if I could get it again?
|Isabella and Catherine in Bath|