What I’m Reading: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

I’m hardly the first to report an appreciation of Jane Austen, nor am I unique in my enjoyment of Northanger Abbey. Rather than lapsing into effusive and repetitive praise, I’ll just relate some of my favorite portions of the book—to remind you of what you already love, or to nudge you towards Ms. Austen for your next book selection.

(After meeting Henry Tilney) They had little leisure for speaking while they danced; but when they were seated at tea, she found him as agreeable as she had already given him credit for being.

(Between Catherine and Henry) “As far as I have had opportunity of judging, appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars.”

“And what are they?”

“A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.”

(An aside to the reader from the author) …and if a rainy morning deprived them [Catherine and Isabella] of other enjoyments, they still shut themselves up, to read novels together. Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding—joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?… Let us not desert one another, we are an injured body!

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

(Catherine to Henry, about Isabella) “I understand: she is in love with James, and flirts with Frederick.”

“Oh! no, not flirts. A woman in love with one man cannot flirt with another.”

“It is probable that she will neither love so well, nor flirt so well, as she might do either singly. The gentleman must each give up a little.”

I so loved this book. For the past few months, I’ve been immersed in a Gothic literature reading course…and honestly, I love the ancient and crumbling castles, the foreboding parental figures, the spectral images floating above the abandoned moor. But, just as a change, it’s nice to see those conventions so completely turned on their head… that which appears suspicious, is, well, perhaps not so mysterious. And the dearest and most trustworthy of friends are, again, not quite what they appear.

Great fun.

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