I forgot how much I love Jane Austen! Before this book, I’d only read Pride and Prejudice and about a third of Emma. But P&P is easily one of my favorite books of all time, and I love returning to it every so often. I will completely own being a Mr. Darcy loving cliché. But now I can add Henry Tilney to the list of fictional characters I’m just the teensiest bit in love with, and John Thorpe to the list of characters I’d sincerely like to punch in the face. (Side note: this seems like a good place to share my favorite German word, backpfeifengesicht, which literally translates to: a face that needs a fist in it. John Thorpe is a backpfeifengesicht. But I digress.)
Austen’s first completed novel, Northanger Abbey is the story of Catherine Morland, who goes off to visit Bath with her neighbors, Mr. & Mrs. Allen. There, she meets Isabella Thorpe, her brother John, Henry Tilney, and his sister Eleanor, among others. Catherine is a bit naive and more than a little obsessed with Gothic novels. But it all works out for Austen’s heroine in the end, as she learns who her true friends are and falls in love. The love triangle is similar to that of Elizabeth Bennett, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Wickham, if only Mr. Wickham was more obviously an ass. He actually seems kind of nice compared to John Thorpe. It also, for the first time in my life, made me a teensy bit proud of being from Fullerton, since that is where Catherine lives in the book, and I had a bit of an ermahgerd-the-name-of-my-hometown-is-in-a-Jane-Austen-novel freak out moment. Does it matter that her Fullerton is in England and mine is in California? Am I the only one who cares about these things?
Northanger Abbey made me feel all warm and melty inside, as Jane Austen tends to do. In short, I loved this book. I look forward to reading it again. And I now have a strong urge to read Austen’s other books (and give poor Emma a second chance). Immediately after finishing the novel, I found and watched the Masterpiece Theater version, starting Felicity Jones, which was equally magnificent. If you’re not into reading Austen, I highly recommend the movie (the 2007 TV movie, I haven’t seen the 1986 version). (I also, in an Austen-fueled frenzy, watched Austenland, which I’m only a little ashamed to say I enjoyed. Partially because the male love interest in both films are played by the same actor, of whom I am now a fan.) Nothing will every replace Pride and Prejudice in my heart, but Northanger Abbey comes close. If you enjoy Austen or romance, this is a must-read. It’s also the source of one of my favorite Austen quotes, uttered by the wonderful Mr. Tilney:
The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Now I’m sitting at my desk, fawning over a fictional character, glancing lovingly of my copy of The Complete Works of Jane Austen (of which I have two separate editions, both equally massive and difficult to actually read out of), and wishing I could spend my days talking long walks in the countryside and reading novels. Jane Austen book hangovers are the absolute worst! I might never recover from this one, but I don’t even care.
What is your favorite Austen novel? I am debating between starting Mansfield Park or Persuasion next. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Edit: After I published this post, I accidentally started reading Pride and Prejudice again. I swear, I will never get tired of that book.