Self has been reading Austen all day. You know, there must be worse things in life than for a woman to say, “I spent all day at home, reading a novel.”
A week or so ago, self bought an enormous book (It weighed about 15 lbs.) about Anne of Cleves because she wanted to know more about the medieval age (Also, it was on sale: originally $149.99, it had been reduced to $29.99). And she trotted that book with her all over and gave herself a crick in her neck.
Also, the year she went to Berlin to participate in a conference sponsored by the House of World Cultures, she lugged another enormous book (Her copy was hardcover): Claire Tomalin’s Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.
This morning, she is still reading Northanger Abbey. She’s grown quite fond of it, during the past week. The heroine, Catherine Morland, is so forthright, so inclined to say exactly what she is thinking, and so good. Her only failing is the fact that she has quite an imagination.
The events near the end of Northanger Abbey have self scratching her head. First, there was this really strange intrusion of the Gothic element, 3/4 of the way through. Catherine was invited to Northanger Abbey by her new best friend, Eleanor Tilney, and she spent a few blissful days there. In her room was an enormous wall tapestry, and Catherine’s imagination ran wild: she started imagining there was a secret tunnel behind the tapestry, which then reminded self that she had just finished reading Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass, and in that YA novel, the heroine does find a secret tunnel, and wouldn’t you know it’s behind a tapestry in her room. Coincidence? Self thinks not.
Anyhoo, self decided to re-read the Tor.com article by Jo Walton, Not Born To Be a Heroine.
She has a different take on Northanger Abbey from Walton, but Walton says something really interesting about Jane Austen:
It’s also easy for us to read her books as romance novels, forgetting that Austen was pretty much inventing the genre of romance novels as she went along, and by Emma she had pretty much got tired of doing them. If she’d lived longer she’d probably have invented more genres. I was going to joke that she’d have got to SF before retirement age, but seriously genre as such wasn’t what she was interested in. She was interested in ways of telling stories, ways that hadn’t been tried before.
Self really feels for Catherine Morland, especially when her former best friend Isabella Thorpe turns out to be a conniving monster (garbed in sweet perfume) and she is informed by her hosts at Northanger Abbey that she must leave the abbey the very next day, unaccompanied, at 7 a.m. She is so stunned that all she can do is cry.
This poor girl has no idea what hit her, and about her plight self can only say: Never ever accept an offer of hospitality ever. Not even if it’s extended by a rich family with an enormous house. Because the power imbalance is simply too great.
People are capricious. Rich people more so than others. The same people who welcomed Catherine Morland with open arms, just 10 days prior, have suddenly turned cold.
Our heroine does find her way safely home, however, and this is what her mother tells her:
It is always good for young people to be put upon exerting themselves; and you know, my dear Catherine, you always were a sad, little shatter-brained creature; but now you must have been forced to have your wits about you, with so much changing of chaises and so forth; and I hope it will appear that you have not left anything behind you in any of the pockets.
Oh, the charm of such an utterance! The scandal of being turned out of a house by the very same hosts who had invited her there, only a short time ago, is thereby reduced to the level of a learning experience.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.