|(This isn't the same copy that I have, but I|
couldn't find a picture of mine, and this
one was purty so I just decided to use it.)
I've joined up with Jillian's Classics Club over at A Room of One's Own-- you can see my list of 61 titles here. So from now until 2015 (provided this blog stays around that long, that is--and I do hope it does) book reviews will be popping up hither, thither and yon on Yet Another Period Drama Blog. I'm not sure if that was the proper usage of "hither, thither and yon" but it's fun to say.
Northanger Abbey was the first title that I read, (I may or may not actually have begun reading it before I joined the Classics Club... *cough*) and it's quite fitting that the first novel on the list should have been written by my most favorite author. Pride and Prejudice occupies the top spot in my opinion of Jane Austen's books, and for the longest time Sense and Sensibility was second, but now I'm wavering between S&S and NA. Because it's just that good.
If you aren't acquainted with the plot of NA, never fear! I'll be quite happy to wait while you go over and read the Wikipedia summary.
Now we can get to the good stuff. NA is hands-down the funniest of all Jane Austen's novels. In my not-so-humble opinion, that is. The narrative is witty and satirical (not that Jane Austen's narrative is ever anything but), the dialogue is often hilarious and the plot is clever and fast-paced.
Catherine is probably my least favorite of all Jane Austen's heroines, but that doesn't mean I dislike her. Her wide-eyed naivete and tendency to look at the world through bookish spectacles make her an endearing character, and I even see myself in her at times. (Searching through a wardrobe for a hidden journal or letters? Guilty!)
Henry Tilney, however, is definitely one of my six favorite Jane Austen heroes. (And I'm not just listing all of them to be funny--there are actually seven heroes from her six major novels. You can guess, if you like, who I'm leaving out.) Henry provided a wee bit of inspiration for the hero of my own novel, so I can't help but like him. Has anyone else noticed how Jane Austen treats Henry a little less reverently than most of her other heroes? He's frequently referred to by his Christian name (instead of always "Mr. Tilney") and his method of address is rather different from that of, say, Mr. Darcy or Colonel Brandon. "Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again."
Isabella Thorpe had the dubious privilege of being one of the funniest and most infuriating characters in the story. "But do not insist upon my being very agreeable, for my heart, you know, will be some forty miles off." She's hilariously quotable (check out this post for some great Isabella quotes) and though she's completely insincere in everything she says, she never fails to make me laugh. She's even influenced me to refer to certain friends as "my dearest creature" at times (you know who you are!).
NA was the last Jane Austen novel I read, for two reasons. First, I'd heard somewhere that it was a spooky Gothic story (ha, my informer must have been quite misinformed), and I was disinclined to try it... but then I heard that the hero was incredibly funny and wonderful, and since I have a soft spot for hilarious heroes, I decided to read it after all, and saved it for last. Ironically enough, NA was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be published, but I'm glad I left it for last. I think anyone, really, would appreciate the humor in it no matter how many of Jane Austen's books she'd read already. But still, I'm glad I read it last. P&P was funny, but not as funny as NA, and I think I appreciated the subtle wit more after being previously exposed to Jane Austen's style.
My rating for this book: nine and a half out of ten! My only complaint was that the proposal was not detailed. I likes me my proposal scenes, and was quite disappointed to be deprived of this one. But other than that, the book was excellent. It's Jane Austen-- what else can I say?
Since I've pretty much rambled myself out (I do hope you weren't expecting anything more than a rather haphazard review of this book...), I'll just share a few of my favorite NA quotes. (I think I'll make a habit of doing that with all my Classics Club reviews. After all, the book authors can say it far better than I can!)
To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.
"Why should you be surprised, sir?"
"Why indeed?" said he, in his natural tone; "but some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprise is more easily assumed, and not less reasonable than any other."
"And what are you reading, Miss – ?"
"Oh! It is only a novel!" replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. "It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda"; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.
"As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars."
"And what are they?"
"A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar."
As a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman’s love is declared. It must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her.
"Ah, Mother! How do you do?" said [John Thorpe], giving her a hearty shake of the hand. "Where did you get that quiz of a hat? It makes you look like an old witch."
"And such is your definition of matrimony and dancing. Taken in that light certainly, their resemblance is not striking; but I think I could place them in such a view. You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else."
"Oh! Mr. Tilney, I have been quite wild to speak to you, and make my apologies. You must have thought me so rude; but indeed it was not my own fault, was it, Mrs. Allen? Did not they tell me that Mr. Tilney and his sister were gone out in a phaeton together? And then what could I do? But I had ten thousand times rather have been with you; now had not I, Mrs. Allen?"
"My dear, you tumble my gown," was Mrs. Allen’s reply.
"Miss Morland, I think very highly of the understanding of all the women in the world – especially of those – whoever they may be – with whom I happen to be in company ... Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half."
And then his hat sat so well, and all the innumerable capes of his great-coat were so becomingly important!
Her greedy eye glanced rapidly over a page. She started at its import. Could it be possible, or did not her senses play her false? An inventory of linen, in coarse and modern characters, seemed all that was before her! If the evidence of sight might be trusted, she held a washing-bill in her hand.
Happy the glance that first distinguished Catherine! Happy the voice that proclaimed the discovery! But whether such happiness were the lawful property of George or Harriet could never be exactly understood.