Northanger Abbey | A Short Review.

I thought I had read all of Jane Austen’s novels but realised recently that I had missed Northanger Abbey and promptly downloaded it to my kindle. I wish I hadn’t; I can’t think of one good thing to say about this book. Can it possibly have been written by the same hand that gave us Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility etc?

This book was completed in 1803, the first of Austin’s novels to be completed but it wasn’t published until after she died. You might think from this that I dislike classics; nothing could be more wrong. I love the classics, especially the ones I studied at school – contrary to the experience of many people.

So, I began to read with anticipation only to be terribly disappointed. The writing is extremely wordy, vague, intricate and boring.. It’s like reading in a fog:

Compliments on good looks now passed; and, after observing how time had slipped away since they were last together, how little they had thought of meeting in Bath, and what a pleasure it was to see an old friend, they proceeded to make enquiries and give intelligence as to their families, sisters, and cousins, talking both together, far more ready to give than to receive information, and each hearing very little of what the other said. Mrs. Thorpe, however, had one great advantage as a talker, over Mrs. Allen, in a family of children . . . “

A lot of words saying nothing at all, even allowing for the utterly different style of writing in the 19th century.

Northanger Abbey itself doesn’t appear in the book until 66% has been read already (according to kindle), and is a peculiar sort of Abbey. I could get no idea of its shape and size. At this point some gothic nonsense is inserted and lasts for a couple of chapters. Some parts of the house would appear to be out of bounds, and peculiar furniture appears in Catherine’s bedroom with secret doors and drawers which give her an uneasy feeling. However this is all soon forgotten – with no explanation for the strange furniture – and returns to the main love story which is so uninteresting that the reader could not care less whether there was a happy ending or not.

The heroine is young, an idealist, and, sometimes, innocent to the point of imbecility. The hero does nothing heroic; he is just there for Catherine to fall in love with. There are a couple of female characters who could have been developed into interesting people to read about but it never happened. They remained as puppets. As this was Austen’s first book, perhaps she was simply trying out various ideas and never meant for it to be published. It reads like a very long first draft, with a little of this and that. The only thing the book does is give us an idea of society, the mores, the morals, the intricacies of class distinction, the manners and the dress code. An essay would have done that job very well.

Has anyone else read this book recently? I would be very interested to hear someone else’s view.

MINUS ONE: Countdown Sale on Kindle from 3/3 to 10/3

COLD TURKEY

I wear your absence

Like a heavy coat

How pale the day

I never thought

That it would be so hard

To root you out

But I will not regret

The desolation

Of these desert days

The shock of separation

From where my spirit

Lay so easy

Life’s a bugger

But I will grab

It by the ears

And shake it till it screams

Ecstatic.

MINUS ONE on countdown sale from March 3rd to 10th, beginning at 99c.

Here are the first three poems. The book is available on amazon in paperback and kindle formats.

MINUS ONE

My magic circle broken

Minus one

The first one

To close his eyes

At first I hardly noticed

You were gone, but now

Your absence grips my throat

Chokes my breath

How much of you is me?

I have your hands

Your hazel eyes

Your quick dismissive shrug

I have your taste

In books and booze

I hear my voice

Confirm your old convictions

How much of you is me

Stretching to close the circle?

THE RED PETTICOAT

I remember the rustle

Of the red, exotic petticoat

The pick of a parcel

From America

Delight crackled in her hair

Exploded in a sudden flush

On her alabaster skin

The lighthouse sweep and beam

Of her glad eyes

Lit us all, haloed the room

Where we stood in a row

To admire

Long left that room, that house

The woman has gathered her years

Carefully, tucked them primly away

Scented and folded neatly

Facing the rest

With a lifted chin

A grin and a new hat

The glow of the red petticoat

About her still.

JEREMIAH

Grey church humped in dusk

We huddle, linked

Wispy rain-curled fringes

Cold fingers

Avoid the avid glances

Of the neighbours

Here is the hearse

The priest in white, hand aloft

Accustomed to the rites

Calls him Gerard – but

His name was Jeremiah

Strange cousins

Twice and thrice removed

Clamour to shake hands

And kiss

Anticipating whiskey

He’d have hated this.