I just finished Northanger Abbey, and once again, Jane blew me out of the water. She is Just. So. Good!
Mr. Tilney is top-notch Austen Hero. Perhaps not as awe-inspiringly hawt as Darcy, or as all-round dreamboat-ey as Knightley, or as intensely sexful as Wentworth, but definitely miles better than the insipid Edmunds of S&S and MP. He has a teasing, playful quality that is very…well, charming. He is probably the most ordinary of the Austen heroes, just a normal guy, probably someone both Elizabeth and Emma (for different reasons, of course) would not be able to take too seriously. But wide-eyed Catherine takes him VERY seriously, and their whole relationship is just too cute, as a result.
I love Catherine, by the way. Reading the synopsis, I thought this might be the Austen heroine I would dislike/relate to less etc, but no. That honour remains with Fanny Price, in spite of me and my situation being very different from Catherine and her’s (and in my worst moments, yes, I have to admit my personality drifts close to the Fanny Price model of self-pity and vanity without charm or wit. Sigh. Give me a cookie.)
Catherine, like her beau is very normal and ordinary. She’s not blessed with an extra portion of wit, beauty, or consequence, and rather less than the normal amount of the first, I think. Nothing distinguishes her, or makes her interesting, no sad story or terrible future. She’s just a very sweet, naive, and sometimes silly teenage girl. This, and her status as a heroine of a parody-ish work, would render her depth and realness as a character in danger, had the writer been any one but Jane Austen. Instead, Catherine’s fears, hopes, and dreams, while being so ordinary and pretty low stakes most of the time, are compellingly etched out. Her naivety can be laughed at, of course, but for me, at least, the laughter was tinged with a nostalgic recognition of very similar encounters as an ordinary, silly, ridiculous etc girl of 17. We’ve all had that wide-eyed moment of youthful imagination-fueled excitement, followed by the several blinks of reality and new clarity of maturity, and the way the novel portrays this makes it a fantastic coming of age novel, as well as being a parody and all the rest.
And she’s so darn adorable. She’s sporty, bad at studying, fond of trashy novels and drama, and has not a stitch of guile or pretense in her. She has no high expectations of life or love, but when she has her first heart break, she reacts EXACTLY as I would/did.
She’s cool. I’d like to be friends with her, I think. If she lived today, she would be a fangirl. One of the sweet ones who write okay fan fiction and endeavor to obtain signed posters of hot actors. Not the scary ones who yell at everyone online with terrible punctuation and write letters in blood.
Oh my god, also, the novel is HILARIOUS. Laugh out loud hilarious. Funniest novel by Austen, by far. So many amazing one liners and observations of life that you can’t help but gasp out ‘Oh my god! That is so true even today’ when you read them. About fashion, young girls, society’s expectations of young girls, the hypocrisy surrounding popular culture, false friends, money and of course, matrimony and all that leads up to it.
That was the last full length completed Austen novel I’ll read for the first time. I still have her Juvenelia to go, Love and Friendship, and Sanditon. Still, I’m really quite depressed. It’s Harry Potter and Agatha Christie all over again. Some writers just have that magic touch that makes you want to be immersed in their world and wrapped up in their words forever.
God, I wish I could have dinner with Jane Austen. She was quite a kick ass lady.