So, I was apprehensive to say the least about diving into Northanger Abbey, our first Jane Austen book to read. I found the book on sale at Barnes & Noble (they have really good deals on the classics) and, luckily for me the book came with notes and an introduction by a present-day scholar. I read the introduction and got a really good idea of the story line, which helped me out quite a bit while I was reading it. He also created footnotes to explain the old-fashioned words. Those I didn’t need too much because with the context of the sentence you can figure it out, but still, helpful.
And I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I was able to get through it easier than P&P several years ago, and I felt like I comprehended more of it than I thought I would. There were still plenty of times I thought, Seriously, what are you talking about and please get on with it, but maybe that’s just another Austen trait. (Maega and I were talking about this book the other day, and mentioned how Austen tends to use her books as platforms for what she believes. She doesn’t follow the “rules” that the author should remain anonymous, but instead puts her feelings right out there in the pages. Interesting.)
Her books are also filled with misunderstanding. I think that’s her humor style. It probably sounds weird, but they remind me of episodes of Frasier. Each episode of that show revolved around some stupid misunderstanding. (Daphne hears one thing, Niles hears another, Frasier acts weird, shenanigans follow.) It frustrated me so much! Just figure it out! So, I find myself feeling that way with this book (and P&P) – a little frustrated.
The structure of the story was odd. It took quite a long while, more than half the book, to get to what the back cover said the book was actually about – and even then, it was just a minor part of the story. The book is more about the main character, Catherine’s relationship with two different sets of siblings. It’s not really about Northanger Abbey and “its secrets.” Though, maybe I’m missing some symbolism here, which is quite possible. So, I felt the ending was very abrupt. However, this book was published posthumously and Austen never actually had it properly edited. A good edit could do this book wonders. Tighten things up, fix contradictions, etc. (This is also one of the shortest of her works. I’m worried about getting through the longer ones like Emma and Mansfield Park.)
So, what Austen books have you read? Does anyone else have trouble reading books from so long ago? Or is it just me? I felt really great about myself when I read some customer reviews and the women were saying they read Jane Austen at age 10. Are you kidding?! I read a ton at age 10, but not Jane Austen.
What other classics do you enjoy?