Book review: Austen’s underestimated but rewarding novel – books
When it comes to the rich tapestry of Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey is one of his most underrated novels.
The tastes of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Emma have all been in the Author’s Hall of Fame. Corn Northanger Abbey is a slight deviation from his other books and is therefore overlooked.
If you’ve read other Austen works, you’ll know that 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 account of matters of the heart.
The book’s 17-year-old heroine, Catherine Morland, is a fan of Gothic literature, popular when the novel was written in the late 18th century. In fact, she lives her life like it’s in a Gothic novel and sees all the fictional quirks of the genre – with imagined dark accents – wherever she goes.
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Northanger Abbey is a witty, comical mockery of what is melodramatic, through the sublime, ridiculous imagination of a girl who lacks real-life experience, and therefore reads too deeply between lines that just aren’t there.
Compared to other Austen novels, I admit this one was difficult to tackle at first. But the reading experience is rewarding, as Austen speaks directly to the reader in several parts of the book. And that’s what sets the novel apart from the rest of his work, because we can see his unique perspective.
Despite Catherine’s protected existence, she learns the hard way that her vivid imagination can take a toll. And while Austen claims we can get too wrapped up in literature and lose our grip on reality, it’s the magic of the books that ultimately helps Catherine understand and navigate real life.
After all, isn’t that what literature is for? A lens through which to assess our own experiences?
Click here to read Northanger Abbey online. (kes)
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics
Examiner: Natalie Pang
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Jakarta Post.