Continuing on my Austen binge, I picked up Northanger Abbey. This is one of those books that I've always felt a little weird about not reading. I own a lot of books and read a lot and yet I feel that there are some "classics" that are just not on my radar. Case in point, I didn't pick up Wurthering Heights until last year and I have yet to read anything other than Great Expectations by Dickens. I'm working on it people.
I've made no secret that I love Austen. Pride and Prejudice is in my top five favorites and Emma would be somewhere in the top tier as well (I'm now trying to figure out what my other top five are and top 100 and so on). That being said, I did not like Nothanger Abbey. It just did not do it for me. Here's why:
Catherine and Isabella have such a fake friendship that everyone can see but Catherine. Isabella is such a parody of a flirtatious woman and an insincere friend that it made me cringe to read about her. Her speeches on how important friendship meant to her contrasted with her abandoning Catherine in favor of any man seemed like they were meant to be humorous but just came off disappointing me. Perhaps if I too had been fooled to think that Isabella actually cared for Catherine, then I would have cared about Isabella in some way. I was not surprised by anything Isabella did, no matter how shocking it appeared to Catherine.
Catherine herself was a big issue for me. She's pure, innocent and about as naive as they come. That I could handle if not for the fact that she doesn't seem to be acting like a woman in that day and age should in regard to men. In other Austin novels, women who are not rich are always at least aware that they need to get a man to marry them before they become a horrible burden and shame on their parents. Men and marriage occupies a lot of their thinking. Catherine seems to be oblivious to it. She is not a rich woman, though yes not poor either, and so should be concerned about getting married. Yet the girl couldn't pick up a hint from a guy if he dropped it in her lap. Which they do, a lot. Yes, she is smitten with Tinley and may be in love with him, but we the reader never really get to know this until very late in the novel. I felt like Austen had Catherine tip-toe around the thought of marriage . This fact of Catherine's obliviousness to men and marriage bothered me the most about this book.
There are moments in Northanger Abbey where you can clearly tell that the writer is brilliant, but, in the face of her other works, this is not a great book.
Two quotes I rather liked:
"Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love."
"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."