Audiobook Review: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, read by Donada Peters

As someone who has long felt that Northanger Abbey far too closely resembled by own life at points [1], and as someone who has read the book multiple times, I thought it would be worthwhile to listen to the book in an audiobook and see if there were any patterns that came through hearing that had previously escaped my attention in reading.  In fact, I did notice some patterns appear over and over again that had escaped my attention with regards to the dialogue used by the Thorpes.  In previously reading the book I had passed over John Thorpe’s swearing and the continually dishonest use of the expression, “Not for all the world” by Isabella.  To be honest, the fact that the Thorpes were such dishonest and untrustworthy people meant that I discounted their words to nothing while reading it, something that cannot be as easily done when one is hearing the tiresome repetition absent faithful performance.  There is therefore something to be said for the worth of hearing even a book that one knows fairly well by having read it, simply because the reader will choose to emphasize different things than one would oneself, so it is like hearing a familiar story told a different way than one reads in one’s own head.  At any rate, I found it a pleasant story and one that offered pleasure even with its familiarity.

The story of Northanger Abbey itself is fairly layered.  On the surface level the novel is about a gothic romance-loving teen girl who, on her first trip away from home, manages to attract the marrying interest of two men, one of whom she loves and the other of whom is a continual torment for her to even be around.  Her susceptibility to gothic horror and her generally uneducated mind lead her into dangerous surmises about the gentleman who owns the house she stays at as a guest of his children, and she is tossed out without ceremony and without just cause to return home in some disgrace, before true love prevails.  On another level the novel is itself a complicated defense of novels, both critiquing the too facile belief that life is like novels, while at the same pointing out that well-written novels can speak eternal truths about human character.  Perhaps unknowingly, as the narrator speaks more than unusually as the voice of the author here, Jane Austen has provided such an example here in her excellent portrait of various characters that exist within this gentry world, a world where reputation can vary wildly based on lies, and where those who are guileless and not particularly bright are often victim to the whims and cruelties of the more clever and deceptive people around them, unless they have a sympathetic author to give them a better ending than they would otherwise receive.

There are a few aspects to this novel, as it is read, that are of particular interest.  For one, the introduction to this posthumously published book describes the book as having been written and completed about thirteen years ago, and apologizes for those aspects of the book that are somewhat out of date.  The introduction by the author also comments that the book had been bought by a publisher who refused to publish it, something that the author comments is incomprehensible to her.  Both of these elements are worth some brief comment.  For one, if the book was a bit dated in its references to fashion at the time it was published, it remains a timeless work in terms of its judgment of character as well as its defense of novelists.  For another, it is incomprehensible to a writer that a work would be good enough to sell to a publisher but not good enough to actually see published.  Most of us who are particularly creative types are more concerned that our works be seen and loved by others than that we become wealthy off of that, although having money from our art is not something most of us, myself included, would be opposed to.  Additionally, this novel bears a striking relationship to Pride & Prejudice in that it presents as a romantic couple a husband and wife who bear a strikingly close relationship to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet as they are described in their youth, reminding us that a happy ending may not necessarily be happily ever after, a lesson many of us who are romantics or romanticists ought to take close to heart.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Love & Marriage and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Audiobook Review: Northanger Abbey

  1. Pingback: Book Review: A Short Time To Stay Here | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: A Love Made New | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Pride And Prejudice | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Mansfield Park | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Sense & Sensibility | Edge Induced Cohesion

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