Last year I took part in Advent with Austen but only managed to read four of Jane Austen’s wonderful novels. To be honest, I was starting to feel a bit Austened out and was thankful when the month was over and I could pick up a completely different type of book. This year, on the lead up to Halloween, I was looking for a slightly spooky read, perfect for cuddling up with in the evenings, and from my first reading of Northanger Abbey a few years ago, I thought it was just the thing!
My second reading of Northanger Abbey didn’t engage my interest as much. I remember the book being full of tension and creepiness. Instead, the ‘creepy’ parts are rather silly, which I’m sure is the point, showing the ‘heroine’s’ naivety and over active imagination. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the same feel from the book, but still enjoyed the read, even if it was a bit slow.
Catherine is not the ideal heroine for a book, which Austen reminds the reader on more than one occasion. She’s still quite a likeable character, even though she comes across as a bit dim. After a promising first few chapters, Northanger Abbey potters along repetitively. An unnecessary amount of time is spent in Bath, where Catherine meets the man of her dreams and a new best friend. The reader can immediately see that her ‘best friend’ Isabella is materialistic, selfish and very good at manipulating both men and women – Catherine unfortunately learns this the hard way. I think it’s the relationship with Isabella that saves the book, because it makes you feel protective towards our unlikely heroine, who otherwise isn’t terribly interesting.
The love interest in Northanger Abbey is Mr. Henry Tilney, who I remember being charming and funny, but now find annoyingly sarcastic and patronising. Unlike Austen’s other novels, there is a real lack of romance, even towards the end. Apart from the odd bit of gentle teasing here and there, the interaction between Catherine and Mr. Tilney is dull. Where is all the passion that we see in Austen’s other novels? There isn’t even an entertaining side story to keep you glued to the seat.
It’s always interesting to re-read a book and see it from a different view point. Although I found Northanger Abbey to be a bit slow paced and repetitive, I still enjoyed it as a lazy Sunday afternoon read, even if it didn’t keep me up at night, desperate to get to the end.