I have to make a startling admission which I’ve probably already alluded to here on the blog: I am not the biggest fan of Jane Austen.
I am one of those people who is loyal to Charlotte Brontë, who loves Charles Dickens, who enjoys long and eloquent descriptions full of emotion and feeling. I’m not really that fond of concise narratives that sum things up in a single paragraph, that tell me what a character is thinking and feeling rather than showing me through their actions. I like sentiments over logic, lengthy descriptions over summaries. And I find that Jane Austen usually offers the latter.
My assessment was no different yesterday afternoon when I finished Northanger Abbey. I have now read all of Jane Austen’s books except Sense and Sensibility, so I feel that I can profess an astute opinion on them. Don’t get me wrong, her stories are iconic and I have adored movie adaptations of them, such as the version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFayden, as well as modern adaptations like the Youtube series Emma Approved. However, I just do not adore Jane Austen’s writing style. It is too clipped and concise and ironic, which I believe leaves it void of emotion. There is no real substance, no depth to the characters, in my opinion. The concepts are good, but they are told in catalogue style, as if Austen wants to simply list the events and summarize them without exploring their detail or complexity.
Northanger Abbey was probably destined to be a novel I wouldn’t love because it toyed with and critiqued the archetypes of gothic novels. However, I hoped to learn something about the gothic genre from it and expand my opinion. Instead, I found myself struggling to connect to Catherine Morland – I just wasn’t given enough to work with; her speeches were short and to the point, and her romantic feelings were described in a few sentences or less. Her fear at being separated from her lover, Henry Tilney, was momentary and brief, and their profession of love was entirely omitted and was instead summarized in one paragraph. I love ardent confessions of undying love, and Northanger Abbey sorely lacked this.
It also lacked direction, in my opinion. It started off as a pleasant tale about a young woman entering society, then became a pseudo-gothic novel set in an abbey, then it was concluded with convenience and efficiency. The scenes were interesting enough, but they were short-lived, and I never had a chance to fully immerse myself in any of the plots or intrigues.
I should say that I still enjoyed the novel more than most others I’ve read and more than other Austen novels. I just wasn’t blown away by it and although I’m glad I can say I read it, it’s not one of my absolute favourite portrayals of the time period. I do intend to watch the movie adaptation with Felicity Jones though, so that may increase my affections a little.
Are you all too disappointed in me for not being a Janeite?
❥❥❥ (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart