Other Books 2013/14

Other Books – Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen Read 17/12/14

Affiliate Link: Northanger Abbey (Vintage Classics Austen Series)

Sometimes I think about the fact that by my age Jane Austen had already written Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. I normally then have a bit of a crisis as to what am I doing with my life. Anyway, as previously established on Bernie and Books, I love Jane Austen and I have kind of started a new little challenge for myself to read all her published works. Next on the Jane Austen list and what with needing a bit of a break from the top 100 after On the Road, I started on Northanger Abbey. 

Whereas with every previous Austen I had read, I had never seen an adaptation of Northanger Abbey and it was a refreshing experience to go into the novel blind. Catherine Morland is one of 10 children of a clergyman. Her life is no where near as exciting as the heroines in her favourite Gothic Novels. When family friends invite Catherine to Bath the usual Jane Austen romantic conflict happens. The best bit is when Catherine’s friends from Bath invite her to stay at their home Northanger Abbey and its Gothic nature fires Catherine’s imagination resulting in ‘misunderstandings of the heart’.

One of my favourite things about Austen’s writing is the satire and let me tell you she is on point with Northanger Abbey. I think to understand a lot of it you have to be familiar with the conventions of Gothic Literature so perhaps read some of Catherine Morland’s favourite books before you start it. If you can’t be bothered with that, this book offers just as much enjoyment from the misunderstandings, romantic conflicts and comic characters as Emma, S&s or P&P. 

I really enjoyed the setting of Bath as it made a change from the grand country houses we normally see in Austen’s work. Admittedly the last portion of the book takes place in a grand country house but it was really interesting to see a different aspect of Austen’s world. I must admit I was bit confused when I started reading it because, as with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin I felt a bit like “this book needed a different title”.

I love the ending of this book so much. Normally with Austen there is a happily ever after so I don’t think I am giving too much away if I say that this book is very similar although not the same. Right at the end when you least expected I was completely in shock and then wetting myself laughing. There is the biggest curve ball and it works perfectly. Perhaps this book should have been called Incorrect Assumptions or something like that because that really is the predominant theme.

In terms of where it sits with the other Jane Austen I have read I would say I like it a lot more than Emma, a bit more than Pride and Prejudice but it sits in a comfortable second after Sense and Sensibility. 


Would recommend to: give it a go if you’re new to Jane Austen.    

Other Books 2013/14

Other Books – Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen Read 16/5/14

Affiliate Link:Sense and Sensibility (Wordsworth Classics)

Two non challenge books in a row. I know. I don’t even have the excuse that they were for college either. I can only say that I read this book next because I was homesick for Hampshire and nothing is more Hampshirian than Jane Austen, except possibly Charles Dickens on a New Forest pony riding through Winchester.

This was the only the second Jane Austen I had read, the first being Pride and Prejudice some years earlier, and I was ready for it to be a struggle. But it wasn’t it was majestic. That is only how I can describe it I floated through this book. I love it so much that I am going to give it the title of My Favourite Book.

Quite a bold statement I know but that is the only way I can get across the joy that this book brought me. I don’t know if I just read it at the right time in my life or if it would have always had the same impression on me but I know I shall treasure the experience of reading it my entire life.

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are forced from their home when their father dies and their half brother and his scheming wife cheat them out of their inheritance. With their mother they are forced to move to a small cottage in Devonshire and must rebuild their lives in a much more modest style. Elinor Dashwood is one of my favourite characters ever written;I have never sympathised with a character more. The story that she shares with her sister is so moving and there is that social commentary that I love of Jane Austen.

Yet, this book is also so funny. If you think that Mrs Bennet is the only outrageous old lady in Austen’s work you need to read Sense and Sensibilty for Lady Middleton. She is so well observed, so well written and it brings me great comfort to know that the middle-aged aunt who always teases you about getting married at family gathering has been making young women cringe for 200 years.

Rating: 5/5

Would recommend to: classics fans.

The Big Read

No.40 – Emma, Jane Austen Read 12/10/13

Affiliate Link:Emma

I have a bizarre feeling of patriotic love for Jane Austen and I think it is because I live 4 villages down from where she lived in Hampshire. I feel connected to her through a shared love of this part of the country and so I am always a little bit biased about her. I am especially biased about Emma because it is set in West Sussex, the county neighbouring Hampshire, and it was written in its entirety at her house in Chawton.

You won’t be surprised to hear then that I found this a comforting and familiar read. I had just left for University when I started reading this and it was a lovely way to keep the home sickness at bay. I had watched some years ago a BBC adaptation and I half remembered the story going in but I had forgotten enough about it to still be caught out by the twist. I must admit it started of for me a bit slow. This novel is all about the character progression of Emma and to start off with I found I really didn’t like being in her company; she was conceited and annoying. But that’s good! That’s the whole point of the story, Emma grows up and develops as a person so she can’t start of as a perfect heroine can she?

For me there is also less of Austen’s humour in this novel. The satire is a lot more subtle than it is in say Sense and Sensibility  mostly because the person that is being satirised is the protagonist. Emma doesn’t need to be ridiculed as Mrs Bennett is because she learns the error of her ways and I like that, although it provides less comedy. I also noticed how boring life must have been because the events that occur in Emma are so much more trivial than in the rest of Austen’s work. Yes there is a bit of scandal but most of the plot is going into the village, having such and such to visit, going to visit such and such. I feel it’s no wonder Emma starts meddling in people’s love lives because she must have been bored out of her brains.

This felt to me to be much less social commentary and much more in the tradition of ‘chick-lit’. It is a really pleasant, enjoyable read which isn’t too taxing and is rounded of nicely with everyone getting together. But what I loved most of all was the idea that people can change and you can make up for your mistakes. Emma is a wonderful 3-D character; she has flaws and she grows. She is the kind of women I want to read about even if I would avoid her company at the beginning.

Rating 4/5

Would recommend to: read on holiday.



Books from School??? – No.2 Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Affiliate Link: Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics)

This is another one of those books that I read whilst still at school but wasn’t on the curriculum. I must admit I was a  bit “meh” about it and am surprised that it came so high up on the list. Now it may be because I must have been 14 when I read it and the language was HARD but I felt like the story dragged. It may also be that it is just so well known; I hadn’t ever seen a Pride and Prejudice adaptation but the plot has been recycling a million times since so I knew just where it was going.

That being said I did enjoy reading it. It just wasn’t a particularly memorable experience. I took from it what I might take from a holiday read bought at the airport. I am a little embarrassed to admit that especially seeing as I am from Hampshire and live ten miles from where Jane Austen lived. I am also a little surprised at myself because I have read other Austen works since and enjoyed them immensely. Perhaps I need to re-read Pride and Prejudice.

But anyway, my lasting impression from the book was how much I liked and admired Lizzie. In some ways I feel she is the first of the ‘not like other girls’ trope that is perpetuated a lot in fiction and film and I some what resent that idea because I’m sorry what’s wrong with other girls? However, what I like about Lizzie is that she is never really believes herself superior to her sisters, although we can tell she is often ashamed of them and her mother. She just does her own thing and in a society like Regency England that took courage. As I look back on the novel with a more critical eye I see Austen’s satire and criticism of that society. She asks ‘why are we promoting this foolishness?’ by having Lizzie scorn her man-crazed mother and younger sisters. I must admit if that was the cultural accept norm, I would want to be ‘not like other girls’ too.

Rating: 4/5

Would recommend to: young women who feel insecure about being single.