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 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.