Saturday, February 28, 2009

Northanger Abbey

Catherine Morland is the protagonist of this novel who is intelligent but unfortunately inexperience with the ways of the world. At 17 years of age, she has never left the comforts of home until invited by Mr & Mrs Allen who requested for her company to Bath. It’s during this trip that Catherine’s innocence become obvious.

Catherine’s obsession in reading Gothic novels also gives her an overactive imagination. Her visit to Northanger Abbey seemed like an adventure which turns badly when she suspects her host, General Tilney of murdering his wife.
I can understand why Northanger Abbey is an all time favourite romance novel. It has innocence, it has romance (in this case with Henry Tilney), it has drama that separates the two love birds, followed by the hero going after the heroine and it ends with a wedding. A happy ever after type of romance that is sure to get the attention of female readers.
As much as Northanger Abbey was an interesting read, it felt as though I was reading a teenage romance novel. Of course, this could be because Northanger Abbey is thought to be one of Austen’s first novels written in her early twenties. It was an easy read and I did enjoy Catherine’s active imagination at work which is reflective of her youth. I also have to mention that I found Thorpe’s character annoying...
I like Headline Review’s version of Northanger Abbey as it includes background on the book, a reading guide as well as history on Austen herself. One of the information included in the book which I thought was interesting is that some publishers placed Northanger Abbey under the Gothic genre.
In fact, I managed to find the cover from the 1960’s that pitched the book as a Gothic novel. With some research I also discovered that the quote on the back cover was amplified to fit the genre:
Actual quote:
‘The wind roared down the chimney, the rain beat in torrents against the windows, and everything seemed to speak the awfulness of her situation’

The ‘improved’ quote:
‘The storm still raged, and various were the noises, more terrific even than the wind, which struck at intervals on her startled ear. The very curtains of her bed seemed at one moment in motion, and at another the lock of her door was agitated, as if by the attempt of somebody to enter. Hollow murmurs seemed to creep along the gallery, and more than once her blood was chilled by the sound of distant moans.’

Ha ha... a bit over the top don’t you think? Personally, I think Northanger Abbey is still a romance novel that has some gothic elements to it but it definitely is not a Gothic genre.
If you’ve read Northanger Abbey, my question is do you think Northanger Abbey can be considered under the Gothic genre? Do you prefer the 1960’s version? Why?

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