02 January 2011

Book Club - Northanger Abbey

This is Jane Austen's satire on the gothic novels that were being published during her time. This book is a pretty quick read as well.... probably because it was a satire.

I've seen the movie many many times, but this was my first time reading the book. So first of all let me get this out - I LOVE Mr. Tilney more in the book than the movie. I HATE Mr. Thorpe more in the book than the movie. Ok, that's all the comparing of the book to the movie that I'll do.

*Disclosure* I'm not in an English Lit class and I don't know all these "things" I'm supposed to be looking for. So I'm expecting that from Amanda (which we probably won't get until her class gets to this book.) I had a chance to read Ardith's thoughts on the book before writing mine and I always love her insight. I'm not going to discuss the points that Ardith brought up, my thoughts on her's is in her comments.

Ahem, onto the book now:

First of all I'm a sucker for a strong female character. I tend to get annoyed if the main female I'm reading about is weak. Yes, Catherine is an ordinary girl with ordinary looks and is naive, but naive does not mean weak.

One of my favorite scenes is where she truly show's how strong she is. The Thorpes and her brother were telling her that they've made plans for an excursion for the next day (without consulting her), but she had just made plans with Eleanor Tilney for that day so she won't be able to make it. They won't take no for an answer and try everything to bully her into going - even her brother is upset at her stubbornness. He sees her strength as stubbornness because he's blinded by love for Isabella and when you're blinded by love you do stupid things to your family members (because they'll forgive you).

Then Mr. Thorpe (who I hate) "solves" the problem by explaining that he talked to Miss Tilney on Catherine's behalf and explained the mix-up. And Catherine was livid and wants to set it right because there was no mix-up. But alas, they've already left.

Does she sit idly by and think "Oh I'll have to set-it straight tomorrow"? No she doesn't!

She chases after them, catches up to them as they're entering their home, practically barges in past the servant, and then throws open the parlor doors and explains that she did not send Mr. Thorpe, she did not have plans to go on the excursion with them, and their walk is still on.

Now, I may not be an expert in 19th century etiquette, but I have a feeling that barging past a servant and not allowing them to "announce you" is bad etiquette. And I say bravo Catherine! (Personally I have a feeling that Mr. Tilney enjoyed this outburst)

Also, Catherine has good senses about other people, in her naiveté she may not understand exactly what she's sensing but she's usually right. (Example is Mr. Tilney's brother) But I found it interesting that she didn't realize how the Thorpes really were until later. Granted she realized about Mr. Thorpe to an extent (I think she just basically found him annoying because he is) and only continued to hang out with him because he was her brother's friend and her friend's brother - therefore he was always in the group. But with Isabella she didn't see her true character until later. When Mr. Tilney's brother comes into the picture she does start seeing more of Isabella's true character but usually pushes it aside after Isabella does her "dearest Catherine" routine. Why doesn't she see Isabella as the annoying gold-digger that she is?

Catherine's experience in Bath before meeting Isabella was a lonely experience. Her and Mrs. Allen didn't have a party to sit with at the tables, they would have to find empty seats with other parties and the other parties seemed to be like "why are you sitting with us?"

Bath was bursting Catherine's bubble. We all do this, when we're going someplace new we imagine how wonderful it's going to be. How much fun we're going to have. But then when you get there it doesn't live up to your expectation because you're lonely. You're on the outside looking in and it's hard to get inside by yourself.

But after meeting the Thorpes their experience was different. Mrs. Allen had Mrs. Thorpe to talk to and Catherine had Isabella to talk to - they now had acquaintances and now the experience of Bath was truly being enjoyed. They even say how grateful they were for meeting the Thorpes. Catherine was having fun now. She wasn't lonely anymore, she made a friend. I think she easily pushed aside those snippets of Isabella's true character because this was her friend. This is the girl that helped her enjoy Bath.

Have you read this book? Any thoughts?

PS - I also really enjoyed Mr. Tilney trying to explain in a round-about way that his brother was only after one thing and Catherine basically kept going "Why?" / "What?" with every round-about explanation he provided. HAHA....

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