I’ve read Northanger Abbey a couple of times, many years ago, but it wasn’t really one of my preferred Austen’s…. until I saw the wonderful 1986 BBC TV film starring Robert Hardy, Katharine Schlesinger and Peter Firth, about ten years after it was made. The film is deliciously gothic and quite true to the book. All the characterisations feel spot on, the costuming is splendid and the music suitably eerie. Bath & Katharine’s huge eyes also have a huge part in the story! It is my all-time favourite Austen TV adaptation.
History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in….
I read it a little as duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all – it is very tiresome.
Northanger Abbey also explores the idea of first impressions – that people and events may not be what they seem at first and that imagination should not be confused with real life.
It was this loss of innocence as Catherine made her tentative first steps into adult life, that really affected me with this reread. I could sense her desperation to be ‘grown-up’ – to know stuff and to not be thought silly – but at the same time being confused and uncertain about what was the right way to behave.
I also really, really appreciated the humour this time around – so much so that I had to read several passages out loud to Mr Books, as he lay dozing on the banana lounge next to me. If you have never read any of Austen’s books out loud, I urge you to try one day. Reading them out loud brings out the humour as well as highlighting how perfectly each sentence has been constructed.
How can you not laugh at the buffoon John Thorpe with his interminable talk about horses and carriages? His obsession with speed and specifications are surely the harbinger’s of our modern day hoon in their hotted up wheels! We’ve all been stuck at a party sitting next to the guy who thinks everyone else is as fascinated by his mode of transport as he is!