Friday, May 11, 2012

Why JA Is Where It's At

I have been sadly remiss in posting - it's been over a week since I finished my latest, but I haven't felt like posting on the bus (with good reason, I'm sitting here posting in stop-and-go traffic and ugh it does not make me feel good) and these days, that's my goto posting time.  But at least I haven't finished another book in that time, since last Shabbos was busy (CL! :)) and I haven't felt like reading on the bus either.  But, you know, it's almost Shabbos again, and this time I might end up finishing something... so better get on with this one.  This one is Northanger Abbey, next in line of books I own that I felt like re-reading.  It was a very different experience than rereading P&P, since I know it so much less well.  I think this must be maybe my fifth time reading it, and the first since 12th grade, the ITV movie, and my general immersion in all things Austen via the blogs.

I definitely had some anticipation going in - I never haven't enjoyed NA, and Henry Tilney's popularity among some (the Austenblog Editrix) made me eager to get to know him, at least, again.  And JJ Field in the move is adorable of course :) But I must say, whatever my expectations, they were surpassed! I finished the book in a few days, mostly on the book, and I never wanted to put it down (yes, I was often heading into work :)) NA is probably JA's least serious work, written as a satire on horrid novels, and that lightness of tone never really abates.  JA's wit reigns supreme, and I am reminded, or reassured, of her amazing ability to write in such a well-formed, yet such a far from ponderous, and ever humorous vent.

As for characters - Catherine herself is likable, if stupid.  And she is quite stupid, at least where human nature is concerned.  I was surprised to find that her predilection for seeing the world through the eyes of Mrs. Radcliffe and co. was less pronounced than I had thought - she only really lets her imagination overcome her at Northanger.  Most of the satire comes from JA's interjections that "a heroine must this" or "as was appropriate, he reacted thus" contrary to the usual course of events followed here.  But anyway, her naivete when it comes to Isabelle is really on the annoying side, since, at least until the end, I feel like Isabelle's false professions and airs never result in consequences unpleasant to herself.  But I suppose in the end, Catherine sees even Isabelle for what she is, and her appreciation of John Thorpe comes rather earlier.

Then there's Henry Tilney. !!!!!!! The perfect combination of flirtatiousness, kindness, humor, and wisdom.  He seems, at least to me, quite a modern type of hero, one whose charm lies in his manner, rather than his character (though his character is very good, don't worry :)) I mean, I could easily see GH creating such a man (like Mr. Beaumaris, though he's definitely more jaded) but I feel like JA must have been the first to have put such charm to the page (ok, maybe she wasn't, but I never read anything like it dated anywhere near that time).  I can see why he such a fave among the ladies ;)

So the humor is great, the story flows easily, the characters are just as they should be... what about the romance? So here's the thing - I think last time (or maybe it was the time before?) I was disappointed by the romance, since it's really not much of one at all (in the tension/angst sense I mean of course :)).  But knowing that going in, I didn't care all that much this time.  I thought maybe there would be some bits I missed that I could pick up on and enjoy... and maybe there were.... kind of.  But in general, it basically says straight out that Henry falls in love with Catherine because she's in love with him.  A very un-GH-like behavior, but in keeping with the theme of anti-horrid novels.  And it really didn't affect my liking of the book at all.  It was just so perfect the way it was, light satire and a good story too.

Verdict: 5/5

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