Okay, if I’m going to be perfectly frank? I had a hard time getting through Northanger Abbey. Catherine, while sweet, is a bit of a ninny. Obsessed with the novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Mr. Tilney, she was concerned with very little of consequence beyond her imagination.
“I never look at it,” said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, “without thinking of the south of France.”
“You have been abroad then?” said Henry, a little surprised.
“Oh! No, I only mean what I have read about. It always puts me in mind of the country that Emily and her father travelled through, in The Mysteries of Udolpho. But you never read novels, I dare say?” (p. 88)
Now, nobody loves a good novel more than I. But, Jane Austen seems to poke fun of those who mock her very craft by saying they are silly things, then she goes ahead and creates a silly female character.
I had no patience for Catherine. While it was endearing to read of her friendship with Eleanor, and her romance with Henry Tilney (“Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.”), it was annoying to endure her fantasies while staying at Northanger Abbey. Too reminiscent of Jane Eyre, in my opinion, is her pondering what the General has done with his dead wife. Perhaps, Catherine wonders, she is not dead at all; merely locked away and fed inglorious meals.
As in most romance novels, everything works out perfectly in the end, but it was all too trite for me. In this round of Austen vs. Dickens? Most certainly Dickens has my vote. Or, perhaps, Ms. Radcliffe, once I’ve read The Mysteries of Udolpho.
Find more reviews on Austen or Dickens this month at The Classics Circuit.