Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Classics Club: Northanger Abbey

(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.)
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." ~Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey

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.


Ella said...

I read NA last year. The story line isn't my favorite,but I do like Catherine Moorland.

Lydia said...

This is my favorite Jane Austen Book! well...its tied with P&P! :) i LOVE Mr. Tilney!!!!!!!!! thank you for posting this! loved it very much!

Miss Melody said...

Ooh, goody! *scrolls down and clicks 'post a comment', then scrolls back up to read the thing*

Aww... your most favorite author. *feels pleased* Oh wait, I already knew that... I just forget sometimes. BAHAHAHAHA.

I'm not so sure NA is really the funniest. It depends on how you look at it. Like, I think P&P is positively hilarious (especially before you're really used to all the jokes already :P), but NA is almost a different sort of funny. Satirical and ironic and all that. :P It's definitely the most satirical and ironic of all her books. Heehee. But, it's not really the kind of 'funny' everyone will understand... (not that ANYTHING is, but you know what I mean). You have to understand the satire bit, AND be well-acquainted with JA's irony... or just figure it out quickly. :) I was always glad it was the last JA novel I read, because then I could fully appreciate it.

Catherine your least favorite?!?! This is horrid! *snorts* No, not THAT kind of horrid. :P

BAHAHAHAAHHAHAHA, about the 6 favorite heroes... oh dear. I know who you're leaving out. Poor him. *sniff*

"My dearest creature" is terribly fun to quote. Indubitably. ;-) Haha, you and I should act out Isabella and Catherine when we meet. ;) You can be Isabella. Because that's who you'd want to be and I like to oblige people. :P

Spooky Gothic story???? BAHAHAHA! I think they missed the point...

Dearling, NA was not the first of JA's novels to be published. o.O It was the first one to be sold to a publisher, but it was not published until after Miss Austen's death, together with Persuasion in 1818. Haven't you heard that story before? The publisher never published it, and when she asked about it a few years later, they said she could buy it back for what they bought it for, but she didn't have the money--then after P&P and S&S and maybe MP too were published, her brother Henry got it back from them, and THEN informed them that it was by the (then well-known) author of Pride and Prejudice. HA! Love that story...
Anyways. If it was the first to be published it would have been called Susan, and that would have been the heroine's name, too.

There. You have learnt your The History of Jane Austen lesson for the day. :P

Yes, that's what I was saying--you can better notice the subtle wit. ;) And as for the people who, as I think there ARE indeed people who, do not 'get' the humor in it... well, Jane Austen didn't write for such dull elves and all that. :P
Anyways, I just think P&P's humour is easier for most people to relate to. Not that that makes it funnier or better... but anyways.

Yay, quotes!

A-ha! The famous defense of the novel! :)

LOL--that quiz of a hat quote! Oh dear...

YAYAYAYAYAYA You included the 'tumble my gown' quote! *feels pleased* I love how Catherine said "it was not my own fault"...reminds me of the wild Beast quote. ;)

Greatly enjoyed your review, m'dear. I love haphazard reviews. They are much more interesting.
I'll be reading this book sometime soon, too... heehee. ;-) S&S first, though.

AnnaKate said...

This is my favorite Austen novel, along with S&S... and Henry! Oh, Henry! I love that guy! This novel is just so fresh, original, funny, and sweet. The exterior is frilly and fun, but the core of the story is Catherine's coming-of-age and learning to live beyond herself. I love it! And did I mention how I love Henry? ;) Oh, I'm so glad you liked it!

I'm guessing that you left out Edmund. Please tell me it was Edmund and not Wentworth. PLEASE.

Jillian said...

Ha ha ha! You make me want to reread this novel. I laughed hysterically when I read it last year, and I hardly ever laugh aloud at books. It's THAT funny! I also ♥ Mr. Tilney.

Have you read The Mysteries of Udolpho? It's worth it!! (But it is scary.)

I feel like Austen rushed the proposal on purpose. Like she was making fun of happily-ever-after endings and all but said "blah blah blah, happily ever after." Have you read her juvenelia, like "Love and Friendship"? Since this is one of her earlier works, the style better matches her early humor, which was very outlandish, intended to make her family laugh at night. I think that's what the ending is rushed for. :)

Miss Woodhouse said...

Did you get my e-mail?

Miss Melody said...

I agree. I think Jane Austen skipped the proposal and rushed everything at the end to go with the style of the book, which was satire-ing the literature popular at the time. She was making everything sort of opposite, and so I assume those novels must have had long, flowery proposals and stuff like that. What about Udolpho, did it? I plan to read that someday.

Just the same.... Henry Tilney proposal quotes WOULD be nice. But hey, at least she put the proposals in half of her books. (The best one, in my opinion, is in Emma. :D)

Miss Melody Muffin said...

I couldn't stop laughing as I read this book. Henry Tilney is just so outrageously funny!!! My favorite is the 'nice' scene. Oh, and 'the usual style of letter writing among women'!!

Anonymous said...

Gah, I really need to finish this book!!! I need to fully meet Henry. =) Great review, m'dear! I love your new blog layout too. =) (Even though there's a shocking lack of MB pictures.... *cough*)

Hayden said...

Oh, I do think is Jane Austen's funnest...the first time i read it, I was laughing my head off on the FIRST PAGE.

Mr. Tilney is hilarious... and he too is the inspiration for one of my book characters. Couldn't help it... :D

Miss Dashwood said...

I like Catherine Moreland too!

Ahhh, another Henry Tilney fan. :D Glad you enjoyed the post!

Indeed, one must be well acquainted with JA's wit to be able to appreciate it... indubitably. :D
Thanks for the correction! *facepalm* I KNEW that... I just wrote this review in such a rush that I didn't even think. :P
Mmm, I'm glad you appreciated the quotes. Quotes are always appropriate. :D

"The exterior is frilly and fun, but the core of the story is Catherine's coming-of-age and learning to live beyond herself." You just summed up the entire novel! Wow!
Yep, it was Edmund I left out. He bores me. *hides from wrathful Janeites*

I think you're right about the proposal-- but I still would have liked to read it anyway. Just imagine how funny Henry would have made it!

Miss Melody Muffin,
Yep, Henry's made me careful about using the word "nice." Heehee, you know a book character is a good one when you mentally consult him or her before saying/doing something...

Shocking indeed... but I'm afraid I couldn't get away with posting them now that LM week is ovah. :D
Oh, you'll love this book! Do let me know what you think when you finish it!

Me TOO! Oooh, so nice to know that you based a character off of Henry too. :D Makes me feel less of a plagiarizer somehow. :P