Friday, August 14, 2009

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

As a budding reader I was surprised to learn that Jane Austen had written only six novels. Surely I could read them and quickly become an "expert" on all things Austen. Happily, my first novel, Mansfield Park, came with an excellent introduction that prepared me to enjoy the story immensely. Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility were also richly satisfying, but my attempts to read about Austen's more immature female protagonists proved futile. Emma seemed too obtuse for her own good. And Catherine (from Northanger Abbey) was too naive for my tastes. I wanted a heroine who knew her heart and mind.

Enter Elizabeth Klett, the answer to all Jane Austen dilemmas. I recently discovered her excellent version of Northanger Abbey at Librivox. Finally someone who reads beautifully and flawlessly! Her reading was so delightful that I found myself smiling, chuckling and even laughing out loud. Who would have thought that this was a VERY FUNNY book? Northanger Abbey was Austen's first published novel and though it lacks the rich characters of some of her other works, the wording is exquisite and the story charming. I'm so glad I gave it another try. Catherine Moreland, the story's heroine, is a young woman who has fed her mind on gothic novels. Because of this she is prone to read more excitment and intrigue into situations than they merit. While I scorned her naiveté in my first attempt at the book, I was won over by her goodheartedness this second time around.

Klett is my new "Librivox hero" and I look forward to listening to her other readings. She's even done a version of Emma, which means I may finally get through it!


Jenny said...

Northanger Abbey charms me! Also, the BBC recentlyish made a TV adaptation of it, with Carey Mulligan and Felicity Jones (I think that's her name), and although there are some departures from the book, I found it almost equally charming and funny.

Sarah M. said...

Congratulations! I first read Austen 11 years ago. Since then I've read all but Emma, which is on my list to read this year.

I'm with Jenny, the BBC adaptation was good, though there were some departures from the book, including one intimate scene. Still, it was fun to watch the story play out.

If you like Austen you might also enjoy books by Elizabeth Gaskell (North and South, Wives and Daughters) and have you tried Jane Eyre?

Memory said...

This is my favourite of Jane Austen's books, in large part because it's so funny! I'm glad you found an approach that worked for you.

Girl Detective said...

I didn't care for Northanger Abbey my first time 'round, either. It reminded me of a middle-school girls diary. The PBS adaptation, even though it wasn't great, helped me see a lot of the humor in it. One of the introductions I read theorized that Henry Tilney speaks with Austen's voice--interesting that she gave it to a man, no?

Bonnie Way aka the Koala Mom said...

Northanger Abbey makes more sense in the context that Austen was in a way making fun of the gothic novel. Look up books by Ann Radcliffe, who was popular in Austen's time. Much of Austen is ironic (particularly Emma -- very ironic narrator there that adds so much to the story).