Author Addiction: Jane Austen

It’s the first Monday of the month so that means it’s time for…drumroll please….Author Addiction! This is a monthly feature created by Kaja from Of Dragons and Hearts and Becky of A Fool’s Ingenuity. The feature celebrates favourite authors, the best of the best, the top of your auto-buy list. Past months have showcased work by Tessa Dare, Laini Taylor, and Sarah J. Maas among others.

This month the spotlight is on Jane Austen!

I tend to focus solely on SFF and graphic novels here, but when I saw that Jane Austen was the featured author this month I couldn’t resist participating! While I’ve read and loved all of Austen’s novels, one of my favourites of the bunch is often overlooked. Oh NORTHANGER ABBEY, let me count the reasons I love you. Note: this post contains minor spoilers for NORTHANGER ABBEY!

Reason the First: Satire

Northanger AbbeyNORTHANGER ABBEY is probably the least well-respected of Jane Austen’s works among literary circles, which I personally attribute to the fact that it was one of her earliest works…and it’s more explicitly comic than her other stuff. Much of the comedy in NORTHANGER ABBEY comes from satire and parody, two literary techniques that I enjoy when done well.

Supporting characters Isabella and John Thorpe provide an excellent opportunity for satire. Their selfishness and willingness to buy into the material constraints of their society are put in sharp contrast with our heroine Catherine. For all that these siblings purport to be the most generous and kindhearted people, every word out of their mouths is clearly a lie. Isabella will often be seen saying “I care nothing for money!” and “I never think of myself!” As Catherine soon learns, anyone who has to tell you that they’re a good person probably isn’t a good person, a fact that comes up more than once in Austen’s oeuvre. 

There’s also quite a bit of satire and parody directed towards Gothic novels and their various tropes. Unlike basically ever Gothic heroine, Catherine isn’t jaw-droppingly beautiful and she isn’t from a wealthy family. Austen doesn’t shy away from making Catherine a little bit ridiculous give that she daydreams about having a grand adventure full of rakish lords who will rescue her from deranged murderers in their haunted manors. But, or course, she soon learns that these things are largely fiction – and were they reality, she would want no part of them. Gotta love a heroine who shows character growth!

Reason the Second: Catherine Morland

Catherine Morland is a bright and plucky – but horribly naive – young woman whose favourite pass time is reading novels. Catherine possesses some of the more notable qualities of Austen’s  most beloved heroines, most obviously Elizabeth Bennet’s bookishness and Marianne Dashwood’s dramatics. But unlike those Austen heroines, Catherine doesn’t take herself too seriously and can laugh at herself when she makes silly mistakes. And goodness does she make a lot of mistakes! Catherine is inclined to believe what people tell her (even in jest, unfortunately) and always sees the best in people – two characteristics that can be positive in moderation but land her in hot water more than once.

Reason the Third: Henry Tilney

Henry Tilney, the only hero who can constantly smirk without annoying me. Because let’s be honest, if your lady love believed that her life was a Gothic novel…wouldn’t you be a little bemused? Tilney is a great romantic hero because he makes it very clear that he’s interested in Catherine and doesn’t dissemble or pursue anyone else. Anyone who’s familiar with Austen will know that her heroes tend to be a bit secretive so it’s nice to have a bit of a reprieve from that. Henry Tilney is also hilarious – he’s what you and I might call a bit of a troll. There’s little he enjoys more than poking fun at society and the ridiculous (including Catherine from time to time). And isn’t it so nice to read about a man with an understanding of the muslin?!

Reason the Fourth: Social Commentary

Like every Austen novel, NORTHANGER ABBEY deals quite a bit with the problems of the marriage market and the unfortunate reality that many people married for money or property. While all this can be overshadowed by the Gothic parody and satirical elements, issues of class and delayed fortunes are hugely important in this one. Tilney’s sister Eleanor has had her romantic hopes put on hold because of her beloved’s delayed fortune; she cannot marry him until he has enough money for a living, and in the interim she must live under the shadow of her overbearing and money hungry father.

General Tilney actually has quite a bit in common with the Thorpes, who I mentioned earlier. John and Isabella Thorpe are both fortune hunters and what’s more, they’re sneaky about it. If you’re going after someone because of their money at least be above board about it, you know? Well, protect us from the things we deserve because things don’t exactly work out well for the Thorpes. Maybe it isn’t the most subtle examination of class, but nevertheless NORTHANGER ABBEY does a fine job of exposing the sordid side of the marriage market and marrying for property and/or wealth.

Have you read NORTHANGER ABBEY? Which Jane Austen novel do YOU think is underrated? And what is it about Jane Austen that we all love so much, anyway? Inquiring minds want to know!

8 thoughts on “Author Addiction: Jane Austen

  1. Eep! 🙂 Welcome! (Let’s try that in an Effie Trinket voice: Welcome, welcome!)

    This is such a great post! I’d enjoy reading your articles, I think, you have very good style.

    Anyway, YES I’ve read Northanger Abbey. It’s been a while and I think I only read it once? I really should re-read N.A. and Mansfield Park and possibly also Emma and Sense & Sensibility 😀

    One thing I never understood about people who talked trash about Austen’s work is how they could overlook how critical she was of the society and how accurate her satire was. I know P&P is probably the most-read and also the mildest of her novels in this regard but it’s still such a powerful work! Mrs Bennet is a wonderful character, really, even if she annoys the shit out of everyone…

    But I think that in the end, Austen’s novels have made me the romantic that I am, at least partly. I read them when I was in high school and they gave me the sense that I really shouldn’t settle for anything less than a great man 🙂 (And I’m only half-kidding as I write this.)

    1. Thanks for having me! Do you know what author you’ll be doing next month? If it’s someone I’m familiar with, I’d love to participate again! 🙂

      YAY thanks Kaja, I’m happy to hear that. It’s nice to know that at least a few people read posts all the way through and don’t just skim. 😉 Not that I haven’t been guilty of skimming myself a time or two, but you know what I mean.

      Ooooh yes, I really hefty Austen re-readathon sounds awesome! If only there weren’t so many books and so little time. I like your plan of listening to the audiobook versions – I wonder if there’s a version of Northanger Abbey where the narrator’s performance does justice to the wittiness. I hope so!

      I completely agree. I think for a lot of scholars and you know, lay people too, they see the much more scathing and evident critiques put forth by authors like the Bronte sisters and wonder why Austen didn’t do the same. But while the upper middle classes and the wealthy were obviously not suffering in the way that working people were, their own society was far from perfect. Not many authors were brave enough to spit in the face of marriage conventions like Austen! Mrs. B is the best/worst. She’s a fantastic character and very layered but you’re right, she’s definitely strangle-able. But then, she’s also the only Bennet who really realizes how important it is for the girls to marry (because of their financial straits)…I can see why she’d have “nerves.”

      HA! Same, not gonna lie. I would never expect someone to deliver an impassioned speech on the moors – hell, I’ve never been on the moors! – but Austen’s books definitely taught me what I do and do not want in a partner. No Kitty-types and no pre-transformation Darcys for me!

  2. I am a little bit ashamed that my Austen experience is pretty much limited to Pride and Prejudice? I AM A BAD BOOKWORM. Northanger Abbey sounds amazing, though, so I must check it out when I am in the mood for these books. I especially love the sound of the social commentary and Henry 😉

    1. Hey, at least you’ve read it! That’s half the bookworm battle, haha. P&P will always be my fave but Northanger Abbey is sooo underrated, I just can’t fathom it. Plus it’s less than 200 pages so you can read a classic very quickly and look pretty cultured indeed. 😉 Except then people can look at all the trash I read on GR and the illusion is then shattered.

      Henry is bae, seriously. If you like to make fun of people in a teasing, not mean-spirited way, you’ll love him!

  3. I love your post! It took me a second read to get Northanger Abbey, it was the last of Austen’s books I got my hands on and I was confused as it is a bit different from her other books and I found it difficult to get into. Then that TV movie came out and I saw the humour and the ridiculousness of the book coming out on screen, so I tried again. My second read through just had something click and I got it! I really enjoyed it, it is not my favourite, but now I get a little offended when people criticise it.

    Henry Tilney will always be one of my favourite romantic heroes because he is so straight forward. There is none of the mystery and second guessing of Mr Darcy or some of Austen’s other romantic heroes, instead he is simple and easy to like. And his humour helps too, who doesn’t like a man that can laugh?

    I’m glad you’ve celebrated one of Austen’s lesser praised works because Northanger Abbey deserves love too.

    1. Thanks, Becky! I read Northanger Abbey for a uni class so I knew what to expect going in, but I think if I’d read it by myself I would’ve been a bit thrown for a loop, too. Which adaptation did you watch? The one with Felicity Jones? So good. YES, I feel the same! P&P is still my favourite but if you criticize or talk shit about NA around me, I will get flustered!

      Tilney is probably the most straightforward romantic interest in Austen’s oeuvre, that’s for damn sure! All of the mystery surrounding him is a product of Catherine’s own fancy – and it isn’t really surrounding *him* but rather his father and his estate. Henry Tilney’s just an amiable guy with a witty sense of humour who makes his interest in the heroine known. If only that weren’t such a novelty!

      Three cheers for Northanger Abbey!

      1. I went in blind, it was the one I’d never heard of before reading and so I just expected the same thing as all Austen’s other books. And I did watch the one with Felicity Jones and it was perfect.

        I don’t know, sometimes I like that straightforward romantic interests are a novelty because I could see how it would get boring to read otherwise. Whilst I hate a lot of the drama that happens in romance (why does everyone make such a simple thing into such a drama?) I also love it because that drama is what makes the books interesting. Catherine is definitely the one to create stories out of nothing in this one (it was refreshing for it not be someone’s mother scheming away and creating mountains out of molehills) and that’s what makes it so fun.

  4. I actually really liked Northanger Abbey, I loved the comic play on the gothic novels that were so popular about then, in fact doesn’t she mentioned the Mysteries of Udolpho in this book – maybe not! It’s been a while. But, yes, I did really like this.
    Lynn 😀

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