book review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen




NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen
★★★☆☆
originally published in 1817



I thought I had the full measure of Northanger Abbey when I first read it in 2017, so I nearly opted to skip it when my Jane Austen book club picked it up, but I decided to give it a re-read and I’m very glad I did. Having now read a couple of other Jane Austen novels, I found this book both richer and thornier the second time around, and also a hell of a lot more fun. 

While I did know it was satire the first time around, I didn’t think that made for a more pleasurable reading experience–though in retrospect I think it’s because I still insisted on treating this book with a level of seriousness that it doesn’t ask of the reader. This book is absurd and unapologetically so, and once that clicked for me it ended up working incredibly well–arguably even better than Pride and Prejudice, which is a practically faultless book, unlike Northanger Abbey which is something of a structural mess, but which still left me a bit colder than this one did.

What I continue to dislike about Northanger Abbey is its central romance. There’s no sense that Cathy has met her match with Henry Tilney, or he with her; instead their dynamic where her youthful naivety meets his playful condescension makes my skin crawl. (As someone who’s accustomed to liking books about unlikable characters, this ended up being much more of a sticking point for me than I thought it would, and probably points to my lack of familiarity with the romance genre.)

Anyway, I think I partially like this book for how unpolished and imperfect it is, and of the three Austen novels I’ve read so far, I think this is the one I’m most likely to return to. I keep thinking about it while Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice have almost left my mind entirely.

some brief thoughts on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
★★★★☆
originally published in 1813




Pride and Prejudice is a lovelier, funnier, and more confident book than Sense and Sensibility and I certainly enjoyed it much more than its predecessor. Very glad to have finally read this one and I’m just as charmed by Lizzy Bennet as most readers have been for centuries. I still feel like I’m missing something though, I must confess. While I chalked up some of my Sense and Sensibility apathy to that book’s relative messiness and immaturity, Pride and Prejudice is inarguably an air-tight work–and yet, one that I can’t say I loved reading from start to finish. I’m not sure what this is. I don’t get on with Austen’s writing style as well as I do with other classic authors but I’m also wondering if the stakes in her books are simply too low for me–this is a personal taste thing, not a criticism. Stay tuned for more installments of me articulating my muddled thoughts on Austen over the next few months. 

book review: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen




SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen
★★★☆☆
originally published in 1811



Sense and Sensibility was only my second Jane Austen after Northanger Abbey–I’m working to read them all in order from her earliest works to latest, which I should complete within six months now that I have the structure of a monthly Jane Austen book club guiding me. I’m honestly not sure that I’ll become an Austen-ite by the end of this–so far my experience with her first two books has been very tepid, though I’m certainly excited to see things take a turn for the more interesting as her writing matures.

I actually don’t have a lot to say about Sense and Sensibility, in spite of attending a very interesting near-two hour long book club discussion the other day. I thought this book was fine but also frustrating to spend 400 pages with; characters are largely flat and undergo very little development and the resolution was almost comically unsatisfying. That this was Austen’s first published novel shows; it feels rough around the edges, though regrettably not even in an interesting way. I didn’t hate reading it, and the fact that I’m an Elinor to a fault certainly helped earn my investment, but I’m looking forward to seeing how her style develops and hoping that her later books work more to my taste and expectations. 

mini reviews #2: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction & various classics

Still making my way through my backlog of Goodreads mini reviews to transfer over to WordPress – if you missed my first installment of mini reviews you can check that out here!  Here’s the next round:

22738563WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
★★★☆☆
date read: April 5, 2018
Vintage, 2014

A really great introduction to feminism which would have been very valuable to me a decade ago. As it stands, I didn’t take a whole lot away from this, or even see familiar points articulated in novel ways… but I’m not the target audience. This is an important book to gift to your friends and relatives who still think ‘feminist’ is a dirty word.

33585392DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
★★★☆☆
date read: April 28, 2018
Knopf, 2017

Between this and We Should All Be Feminists I don’t think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction is for me, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have merit. I just didn’t get anything out of either of these essays that I haven’t already seen articulated by others in more thorough and nuanced ways. And once again, as with We Should All Be Feminists, I was disappointed with the lack of inclusion toward the LGBT community. But I did enjoy the particular insights into Nigerian and Igbo culture, and there’s a lot to be said about the brevity with which she is able to articulate her points, which makes this an accessible starting point for anyone unfamiliar with feminist theory.

6473195THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE by Agatha Christie
★★★★☆
date read: March 30, 2018
William Morrow, 2009, originally published in 1930

Yet again Christie manages to craft a mystery so intricate it’s all you can do to keep up, never mind get ahead of her. 4 stars instead of 5 as it took me ages to get invested in these characters for whatever reason, and because I got tired of Clement remarking upon how clever Miss Marple is (we get it). But the resolution was fantastic and I thought the humor in this one in particular was great.

92517THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams
★★★★★
date read: January 21, 2018
originally published in 1945

Thoughtful, entrancing, achingly sad. Worth reading the script even if you’ve already seen the play live (I have not) because the detail in Williams’ stage directions is so vivid.

 

 

50398NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen
★★☆☆☆
date read: December 29, 2017
originally published in 1818

This was the single most inoffensive reading experience of my life. I didn’t like this book. I didn’t dislike this book. I have no opinion on this book and I have absolutely nothing else to say.

Side note: this was my first Jane Austen (not counting the first couple of chapters of Pride and Prejudice that I tried reading when I was 13 before getting bored), and I’m aware that it’s widely regarded as one of her weaker novels, so I’m not letting it put me off Austen for good.  The one that appeals to me the most is Mansfield Park so I’ll probably read that next, though I have no idea when that will be.

Feel free to comment if you’d like to talk about any of these in more detail!