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Book Review: Austen's underrated yet rewarding novel

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Jakarta | Mon, November 28, 2016 | 03:37 pm
Book Review: Austen's underrated yet rewarding novel

'Northanger Abbey' is a witty, comic mocking of that which is melodramatic, through the sublime and ridiculous imagination of a girl who lacks real life experience, and thus reads too keenly between lines that just aren’t there. (Shutterstock/File)

When it comes to Jane Austen’s rich tapestry of work, Northanger Abbey is one of her most underrated novels.

The likes of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Emma have all made it into the author's Hall of Fame. But Northanger Abbey is a slight deviation from her other books and so consequently gets overlooked.

If you’ve read any of Austen’s other works, you’ll know she uses a quiet, understated, sort of humor in her work. Northanger Abbey is different. This posthumously published novel is as much a critique of the gothic genre as it is a conventional tale of affairs of the heart.

The book’s 17-year-old heroine, Catherine Morland, is a fan of gothic literature—popular when the novel was written at the end of the 18th century. In fact, she lives her life as if she were in a gothic novel, and sees all of the genre’s fictitious quirks—complete with dark imagined overtones—everywhere she goes.

(Read also: A day in the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore)

Northanger Abbey is a witty, comic mocking of that which is melodramatic, through the sublime and ridiculous imagination of a girl who lacks real life experience, and thus reads too keenly between lines that just aren’t there.

Compared to other Austen novels, I’ll admit this one was hard to get into at first. But the reading experience is rewarding, because Austen directly addresses the reader in several parts of the book. And this is what sets the novel apart from the rest of her work because we get to see her unique insight. 

Despite Catherine’s sheltered existence, she learns the hard way that her overactive imagination can have a detrimental effect. And while Austen does make the claim that we can get too wrapped up in literature and lose our grip on reality, it’s the magic of books that ultimately helps Catherine understand and navigate real life.

After all, isn’t that what literature is for? A lens through which to gauge our own experiences?

Click here to read Northanger Abbey online. (kes)

 

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Category: Classics

Author: Jane Austen

Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics

Published: 2005

ISBN: 1593082649

Reviewer: Natalie Pang

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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