In Northanger Abbey, a young woman's penchant for sensational Gothic novels leads to misunderstandings in the matters of the heart. Austen's first, this is considered by many to be among her most charming novels.
Public Domain (P)2012 Trout Lake Media
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
This was an early, minor work of a literary giant. Northanger Abbey was a pleasant parody, but didn't have much narrative momentum. Certain devices were executed well enough (direct address, discussion of novels, etc) and Austen's ability for dialogue, social maneuverings, social criticism and gothic intricacies must have been womb-developed since they already seem mature with this her first competed (although it was also her last published) novel.
Northanger Abbey was, along with Persuasion, published posthumously. Both novels centered on society in Bath, but NA just didn't have the chops of Austen's final novel (Persuasion). So while they both tend to bookend her writing career, they are uneven bookends for sure.
I've experienced enough Austen now to know that it isn't the social romance novel that I'm reacting too, just a novel that isn't fully formed. Perhaps, I am just put off by NA's uncanny valley of the full-bore, more natural, later, better Jane Austen.
I am a reader of books.
In Northanger Abbey, the Gothic setting is in the very title of the novel. As Catherine approaches Northanger, “her impatience for a sight of the abbey... returned in full force... with solemn awe to afford a glimpse of its massy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with its... high gothic windows.” However, Catherine’s expectations are met with disappointment as the abbey comes into view and she realizes that the Abbey has been modernized. This “struck her as odd and inconsistent.” Even the Gothic windows, which Catherine had heard were preserved, are not what she had expected. “To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.” Her expectations from the fiction she has read of what Gothic architecture is contradicts the reality.
Catherine is repeatedly let down by her expectations. They are so wild and extravagant, like in the Gothic Romance she reads, that the stark difference between her expectations and reality is comical. This is Austen’s parody of Gothic tropes and it exemplifies her theme, the dangers of fantastical literature and their power of suggestion. Another Gothic convention is horror.
Instead of horror there are only mystery and suspense, the narrative precursors of horror. Henry teases Catherine on their way to Northanger Abbey, emphasizing her reading as he asks, “And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce?” He sarcastically continues to lead her on, drawing very well from the Gothic tropes that he knows Catherine is fond of reading, “We shall not have to explore our way into a hall dimly lighted by the expiring embers of a wood fire... gloomy passages... an apartment never used since some cousin or kin died in it... only the feeble rays of a single lamp... its walls hung with tapestry exhibiting figures as large as life, and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet, presenting even a funereal appearance... Will not your heart sink within you?” Henry continues to josh Catherine and by the end of it Catherine humorously both asks him to stop and continue. “Oh! No, no -- do not say so. Well, go on.” Contradicting herself with an insatiably morbid curiosity.
In another example, fueled by her wild imagination and a thunderstorm, Catherine arrives in her room at Northanger Abbey suspecting the worst. However, all of her irrational fears are dashed by practical reasons. She anxiously inspects a chest in one corner, only to find a collection of old hats; there are frightening creaks and groans, but they are simply explained by the weather; and, after discovering papers within a cabinet that she expects to be a secretly hidden manuscript, she finds that it is merely a list of laundry and washing bills most likely left there by a maidservant.
In Northanger Abbey, there never is a horrifying reveal, but this is to the point. Instead of horrifying reveals, Austen rather creates moments of mystery and suspense that only hint at a horrifying reveal. In parody of the Gothic trope, these horrifying reveals comically fail to occur. The effect of this exemplifies Austen’s theme of how, instead of formulating rational reasonings, Catherine’s obsession with fantastical Gothic literature has made her highly susceptible to suggestion.
Gothic literature had become clichéd, and Jane Austen appropriates Gothic conventions in order to mock them. This parody then heightens the purpose and meaning of her novel, illustrating the folly of a quixotic obsession with fantastical literature that makes one susceptible to suggestion.
Jane Austen is great!
The narrator has no idea about the right pronunciation of places in England. She had no emotional involvment with the story. Very poor rendering.
Jane Austen's novel is as good as ever, but Ms. Agliotta's vocal interpretation is nearly impossible to listen to.
The story is quintessential Austen and though not her best work, will please Austen fans.
This reading cannot be called a "performance" in any sense of the word. Ms. Agliotta simply reads, and reads, and reads -- rapidly and with no character voices or even pauses. Most of Austen's dialogue (and there is an abundance) does not use he/she said tags, but relies on quotation marks and line spacing to identify changes in speakers. So an audible experience requires the reader to skillfully depict each character's voice. There is no such skill in Ms. Agliotta's reading. Even with close listening it was difficult to discern who was speaking, and there was no differentiation between male or female. The best parts of this audible book were the chapter announcements - at least then she took a breath and I knew who was speaking.
I was looking forward to an engaging rendition of the story, but the narration was AWFUL. The narrator spoke quickly, but extremely softly, as if she were trying to hurry through the narration as quickly as possible without waking someone sleeping in the other room. Raising the volume didn't help because she would occasionally punctuate with a loud word - this was not a good rendition. I clearly see why it is the least expensive one on here.
I'm new to Audible, but this was the best I have heard so far.
Ms. Agliotta's voice adds an innocent quality to the point of view of the narrator.
The book itself has all the charm and wit of Jane Austen's famous writing. This is a delightful narration of the book. I found myself rooting for the young Katherine Moorehead throughout, wanting her to see the flaws in those around her in order to make her way through the world. After all, as Austen shows us once again, the superficial have lovely manners, also!
Ultimately, though I love Austen, and have not yet read Northanger Abbey, I had to abandon this audiobook because the narrator just wasn't doing it for me. My primary complaint is that she is not British (shouldn't that be required?). But also, this narrator was delivering an Austen with no sparkle, no tongue in cheek wit. Narrator fail.
The story was classic Jane Austin, the story brought me back to my visit to Bathe. The audio was so bad it seemed to be at a very fast speed, and would at times sound like it was sped up to double speed. The audio also cracked through out. It was very quite or rating.
When Catherine went to Northangsr Abbey and the way Henry teased her.
Try the story with a differnt narrator.
Different narrator. It sounds like it is being read by a computer. Her voice completely lacks emotion so it makes it very difficult to enjoy the story.
Northanger Abbey is not Austen's finest novel, but it is enjoyable. The reading was only adequate, but I have heard worse narrations.
I suspect that my favorite character is the author, who in her narrator's persona makes various snide remarks.
Alas, there were a lot of problems, though not so many as to make the work intolerable. This narration badly needed going over by an editor, to spot mispronounced words and duplicate sentences. There were enough mispronunciations to be irritating, and Mary Sarah Agliotta should get herself some coaching on that point.
She could have spotted the duplicate sentences herself if she had carefully listened to the finished product before releasing it. There also were several points at which she did not recognize what was going on in a sentence until she was halfway through, resulting in poor choices of which words to stress.
Her voice was pleasant enough, and I am not greatly bothered by the fact that she did not attempt strong differentiation of the voices of different characters. The problem is that most narrators on Audible are so superb that this reading did not measure up.
I am not sure I would enjoy going to dinner with any of the characters, all of whom seem to be pretty shallow people. I would love to go to dinner with the author.
Jane Austen uses this book to praise the value of reading novels, and at the same time demonstrates the foolishness of allowing Gothic novels to form one's expectations. It is a lovely juxtaposition.
I don't wish to be too negative, but on this occasion I will just have to be. I am not sure why, but the narrator for this book seemed, in my opinion, totally unsuitable for this story. A very 'odd' accent didn't help as it clashed with the rather 'old-fashioned' style of writing and language used, indeed in some of the passages she seemed to become totally tongue-tied. If you can, I would recommend trying another version of this book before this one.
Is it really appropriate to feature an American narrator reading classic British literature? Her mispronunciation of British place names really jars.
I really enjoyed this version of Northanger Abbey. However, I did note that in the middle chapters the narrator gets a little tongue-tied.
"I'd forgotten how varied Jane's voice is!"
Well, yes. It's interesting to hear one of her less prominent novels
Don't know - it's different to other Austens and isn't a "horror" book.
Sorry, but the American voice doesn't work. Mama and Papa are not the same as Momma and Poppa. Austen is quintessentially English and needs an English reader. (No offence intended).
Not really, it doesn't translate IMO.
Mary Agliotta read this story wonderfully and brought the story to life, although I will say that it took me a while to figure out who everyone was as she doesn't change her voice that much between the characters. Saying that though, I did not find it effected my enjoyment of the story.
The story itself is like many of Jane Austen's novels. The characters feel real because she deals with real emotions and situations and gives an insight to how different society was during Jane's time.
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