I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I do love Jane Austen. It’s probably obvious, given the general topic of this blog, but still. I had been one of those people for years who took for granted how revolutionary she was and thought of her not as a predecessor to women writers of all genres, but just another romance writer. Then I took a literature class than focused on her works and it is probably one of my most valuable classes. Not only did I learn about Austen herself, but what it was about her writing that challenged the status quo.
I was surprised to find that Northanger Abbey had been the first novel she wrote but was also published posthumously, which is what prompted me to read it now. This is my Read Harder task 1 book, a book published posthumously.
The story itself revolves around Catherine Morland. I think my favorite thing about her as a main character is how absolutely normal and typical she is described as being. There is nothing special about her outside of the uniqueness that being a person provides. She isn’t exceptionally wealthy, smart, pretty, or connected. She is as ordinary as a main character can be, which is pretty special in its own way. Too often we want our characters to be extraordinary and that’s why things happen to them and we lose the idea that it doesn’t take being exceptional to be able to rise to an occasion. For some of us, it merely takes an opportunity. Now, before I get too carried away, it’s not that Miss Morland is about to be whisked off to another world, she just seems to be willing to go wherever someone is willing to take her. I actually adore that about her too. She’s pretty much down for whatever, so long as it’s arguably socially acceptable. Yes, arguably. She does need to be able to rationalize that much.
As with the other Austen novels, our heroine is in need of a husband. She’s isn’t in desperate need yet, but she’s ready for romance and perhaps even an adventure. With that goal in mind, she leaves her home and visits with family friends who try to help to varying degrees and gets in some mix ups and has a lot of fun and a little heartbreak and it really is a great romance told in a fun voice. As in her other stories, Austen plays with the concepts of connection and status and wealth and shows how easily one can misstep while navigating social situations that are thick with those very concerns. Her stories all seem to ask the same question, can’t we just be people? It makes me wonder what she’d think of the way people marry today.
I borrowed Northanger Abbey from Scribd, which has both the audio and ebook but it’s also available for purchase worldwide. Click on the cover image above to be redirected to BookLikes for those options or add to Goodreads for later.