Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Source: Goodreads

Catherine Morland is the second of four children of a small town vicar, and after befriending the wealthy and childless Mr. and Mrs. Allen, is invited to go to Bath with them for a few months. While there she makes the acquaintance of the Tilneys and the Thorpes, wherein her adventures in polite society begin.

A few of my classmates and I have decided to create a Jane Austen Book Club, and we’re reading them in the order they were written, so we’ve begun with Northanger Abbey. This novel is often touted as being a gothic novel making fun of gothic novels, and while Catherine is certainly obsessed with the genre, but having never read any true gothic novels, I can’t say that I see the humor in any of it.

To be perfectly honest, I hated almost every. single. character.
Nearly everyone is completely self-absorbed and focused solely on the possibility of their own personal happiness. The never ending prattle of these characters would be exhausting if let loose upon society. Austen herself breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader constantly, explaining why she did some such thing or left something else out, and I really think getting rid of all the fourth wall breaks would make the story at least 15% more interesting.

It feels as though John Thorpe’s entire reason for existence is to be a bigger wierdo than Henry Tilney, thus making Henry look good by comparison. Tilney even admits at the end that he only ever gave Catherine the time of day because she seemed to be into him, and he didn’t have anything else going at the time. And Catherine was only into him because she only had two options and John is John.

I’m pretty sure everyone I know has met at least one Isabella Thorpe in the course of their life. She gaslights everyone, is petty, jealous, and a compulsive liar. She thinks she’s a big fish in a small pond, even though she’s not an interesting human at all, and keeps jumping from relationship to relationship because the grass is always greener on the other side. She’s exhausting, and not a person you’d ever want as a friend, but when you have no friends, she’s an easy one to keep. The worst part is that her younger sisters are perfectly nice humans and are going to get treated like trashy, tiny versions of her for the majority of their lives just because she and John are awful people.

Captain Tilney was interested in Catherine in a creepy way. Not letting them tour the house or garden without him? I’m just going to come on out and say loudly that this makes him sound like he’s eyeing up Catherine for himself. Every time he talks about Henry’s home, he makes sure to mention something he built with his own two hands. He’s very obvious about the house needing a lady’s touch, embarrassing everyone. An not letting anyone into Lady Tilney’s rooms is just strange.

The things I did enjoy about the book were the parts where Catherine was off in her own imagination. Her walk with Henry and Eleanor, the tour of the house, the story Henry tells her on the way to Northanger, and her first night there. I loved how those papers played out at the very end, and I think the novel would have actually been better and more well rounded if the story were told from Eleanor’s POV. Could you imagine having a friend come to visit who believes that your house is haunted and that your mother was murdered most foul? Having a gullible friend like Catherine would be fairly entertaining. All these bits and pieces of delight were not enough to outweigh the mostly awful characters and the fourth wall breaking, however, and I was very happy to be done with it.

HHC Rating: 2 Stars.

Other reviews in the Jane Austen Book Club:
Sense & Sensibility (August Book)
Pride & Prejudice (September Book)
Mansfield Park (October Book)
Emma (November Book)
Persuasion (December Book)

Cotillion – Georgette Heyer

Cotillion-Georgette-Heyer

Source: ThriftBooks

Kitty Charing is set to inherit the immense fortune of her scrooge of a guardian, a man who adopted her after his childhood friend, Kitty’s father, passed away. There’s only one catch: Miss Charing must marry one of the old man’s great nephews, or the whole of the fortune will be donated and Kitty left penniless when her guardian passes.

 

If you’ve never read a Regency Romance written by Georgette Heyer, go and order one right away. Heyer, the author of over 54 novels, is known primarily as the “inventor” of the Regency Romance subgenre. Unlike Jane Austen, who was technically writing contemporaries because she wrote about the time period in which she herself lived, Georgette Heyer wasn’t even born until 1902, and published her first book in 1921. Her works are unlike the Regency Romances of today in that there are actually very few romantic scenes: the books usually end with a kiss – that’s it. Today’s RR’s are more typically full of heavy romance scenes early on, and then characters dealing with the fallout.

Georgette Heyer’s stories are enveloped in the high society of the 17-1800’s, where one wrong move would get you banned from the London social season (also known as the ‘marriage market’) and ruin your societal standing in a single blow. She is well known for her historical accuracy, often explaining clothing, etiquette, and society for the benefit of the reader in ways that Jane Austen would have taken for granted that her readers understood.

 

What I’m saying is, Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances are basically the Romantic Comedies of the 1920’s-70’s. Often hysterically funny and filled with character miscommunications, a trip through a Georgette Heyer book is never anything but highly entertaining. It’s no wonder that her books sold well even during the Great Depression.

Cotillion, in particular, is one of my favorites although The Nonesuch, Bath Tangle and Sprig Muslin are close front runners as well.  Some readers may feel they need a dictionary in order to understand the period-specific talk, but it’s actually fairly simple to get the gist of the phrasing, even if you don’t know the actual definition. For example, a ‘dashed ivory-turner’ is another way of calling someone a professional gambler.

In Cotillion, we follow Catherine Charing, who believes she is about to become a wealthy heiress, as well as five of Uncle Matthew’s great nephews, four of whom remain unmarried at the time at which Uncle Matthew makes his announcement that Kitty must marry one of them. The mayhem itself is entertaining, but as always the slow turn of the romance is fascinating to watch. You’re left wondering until the last pages who she will choose to marry, if anyone at all, and in between fending off of various romantic advances, Kitty gets up to some trouble of her own.

Overall I quite enjoyed this book, even if this was my 4th or 5th time reading it. Recommended to anyone who enjoys miscommunication stories and romances.

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 4.5 Stars