Reading Northanger Abbey

Note: As I move through this project, I will write and publish posts as events unfold. But at this point, I have already finished Northanger Abbey and am about to start Sense and Sensibility. Posts will be more frequent now, to catch up.

The conversation about annual readings of Jane Austen novels fresh in my mind, I started
Northanger Abbey on a whim Friday morning. All I knew about this novel, going into it, was that it had been made into a BBC miniseries which popped up in my Netflix recommendations all the time (presumably because of my viewings of Downton Abbey).

I was immediately struck by the humor. Jane Austen is sarcastic, y’all. I had no idea (which leads me to believe I have not been reading
Emma very closely and that I will find it an entirely new experience this summer). I am going to credit my repeated viewings of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice for developing my interest in actually reading Austen instead of skimming through for plot points.

Anyway… Northanger Abbey is, essentially, the story of a young, naive protagonist with a proclivity for creating fanciful daydreams while remaining blissfully unaware of some of the more obvious and actual plot developments in her own life. Catherine leaves home for an extended stay in Bath with her friends Mr. and Mrs. Allen and encounters all the exciting things a young girl should on her first stay away from her family: new friends, unwanted romantic pursuit, seemingly disinterested but very desired love interests, and something of a scandal (or two) for good measure.

In many ways, I feel like this is the first Austen novel I’m truly
reading. Will this become my new favorite or will this improved comprehension and appreciation extend through the rest of my readings? I don’t have any desire to replace Emma as my favorite novel, but I won’t deny it if it should slip down the rankings a bit. (Well… this is all a bit premature.) 

I spent the rest of the hot summer weekend reading about Catherine’s small adventure whenever I could. It’s fair to say I was addicted to Austen this weekend, though I did not let her tempt me into staying home from all the summer street festivals Chicago is famous for. 

Happily, I finished the book Sunday evening, which is above all other days, my favorite time to finish a book. (What a satisfying end to a fantastic weekend!) I was a bit sad though to finish the story. The ending is remarkably rushed compared to the length dedicated to the first part. Catherine’s time in Bath takes up nearly two-thirds of the tale, despite the title. 

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland in the BBC’s Northanger Abbey.

I am quite interested to see how the BBC adapted the novel for the screen as so much of the story takes place in the protagonist’s own inner musings. Of course, this miniseries is no longer available on Netflix Instant View. Hopefully the library will have this available. (Or I suppose I will just have to purchase it – sadder things have happened.)

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