I have never really spoken about my degree before, I'm not entirely sure why, maybe I thought it wasn't interesting blog fodder, or maybe I didn't really feel confident enough to talk about something I'm still in the process of learning about. But, for nine months of the year I study English Literature through the Open University. Going away to uni wasn't really for me, which is why I chose to do distance learning, and I've pretty much loved every year (especially Shakespeare). However, last year, I did Children's Literature, which I thought I would love, but actually I found studying tough, I had no concentration, nothing driving me forward.
So this year going to change that with these little reviews. I'm aiming to post one or two a month (depending on book length/study time) to keep me motivated, and to tell everyone how much I loved/hated my most recent read.
This years module is The Nineteenth-century novel, and the first book on my reading list was Jane Austen's:
Now, I've read Pride and Prejudice before, and thought it was pretty blimin' spectacular, and I understand that Northanger Abbey was her first novel, but I just didn't find as engaging as its more famous friend. It seemed to take a long time for it to go anywhere, especially to Northanger Abbey itself. And while the main character Catherine Morland is intelligent, active (for a woman of her time), and even in some ways quite similar to Elizabeth Bennett, the other characters that surrounded her, such as Isabella Thorpe, undermine that intelligence as Catherine becomes so easily taken in by them.
This was the same for many of the male characters, who almost felt like parodies. Now whether this was intentional or not I couldn't really tell, there seemed to be some moments in which Austen was self referentially mocking her novel as a whole, and other moments of complete seriousness involving the same characters.
I was also disappointed that the gothic undertones never really came to anything, we got exciting hints of murder, or mystery that just turned out to be some laundry bills, or Catherine's over excited imagination. It sort of felt like a novel of ideas, different inspirations married together to make a whole, that she later developed into her other novels.
Having said all of this however, I did find the drawn out romance between Catherine and Henry so subtle that it came across realistically, and refreshingly normal for a novel of it's time. There were no bouts of near fatal illness, or mis-engagements. It felt both old fashioned and contemporary, with mis-understandings and idle gossip becoming both the making and breaking of their relationship.
So overall I thought it was..alright. I liked Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility much better, the characters are more rounded, and the omniscient narration gives deeper insight, which I think, heightens the emotional experience of the book, an emotion that I felt Northanger Abbey lacked.
Now time to move on to my next book, which I'm pretty excited about because of this: