Welcome to Sunday Salon here at Bookstack. Let me pour you some coffee, while you settle into the big armchair by the window – that’s right, just move my little dog aside, she’ll make room for you to snuggle in beside her. The croissants are nearly ready to come out of the oven, and I believe there are fresh peach preserves to spoon on top. (yum)
Now, let me tell you what I’ve been reading this week…
It’s certainly been an Austen filled week at my house – do you think I’m perhaps going a bit over the top? What with reading a novel, a biography, and preparing to watch another episode on this week’s edition of Masterpiece Theater, perhaps I’m becoming an Austen glutton.
But, oh, I don’t care!
At any rate, I’ve been re-reading Northanger Abbey, and find myself chuckling and shaking my head in merriment. I’d quite forgotten how broadly satirical this novel is. Catherine herself is such a clueless little cluck, first allowing Isabelle and John Thorpe to commandeer her social life, then remaining oblivious to John’s romantic intentions, and finally letting her overactive imagination run amok with ridiculous Gothic scenarios whilst visiting the Tinley’s at Northanger Abbey. Really, the novel is quite a bildunsgroman, isn’t it? Catherine ventures from home as an immature tomboy, yet after her season in Bath, complete with betrayals in friendship, an unwanted proposal, falling in love and nearly losing her love (don’t worry, all comes right in the end!), being the victim of vicious gossip~suffice it say, she comes back to the arms of her family a much wiser, more mature young woman (at least one hopes so!)
I can hardly wait to see the dramatization tonight on PBS!
Imagine, Jane Austen was only 23 when she wrote Northanger Abbey. And Sense and Sensibility as well as Pride and Prejudice soon followed. It’s true that her writing here does not demonstrate the subtlety that becomes evident in the later work. But somehow I think the freshness of her young woman’s perspective adds a great deal of humor to the story.
Speaking of Jane herself, I’ve just begun reading Claire Tomalin’s biography, Jane Austen, A Life. I must tell you how much I love reading biographies, and most especially writer’s biographies. How fascinating, to juxtapose the real life circumstances with the ideas that eventually find themselves illuminated in fiction. So much of Northanger Abbey could have been directly drawn from Jane’s experience – the society lifestyle in Bath, where her family lived for some time, Catherine’s place in a large family, so familiar to Jane who was one of nine children. Seeing these experiences distilled into words and images on the page is like peeking inside Miss Austen’s brain while her pen scratches across the paper.
Claire Tomalin’s book provides truly fascinating insights into Miss Austen’s life. Growing up in a houseful of boys, Jane was not the retiring young lady typical of her time and station. “Jane Austen was a tough and unsentimental child,” Tomalin writes of her subject, “drawn to rude anarchic imaginings and black jokes.” She was, perhaps, a bit socially awkward, a theme that occurs quite often in her books. And although it’s been taken for granted that Jane Austen lived the typically uneventful life of an English spinster, Tomalin informs us otherwise. You see, apparently there was an ill-fated love affair with a young Irishman, and ….
Oh my, look at the time! It’s been so lovely talking with you this morning…What’s that? You simply have to know more about Jane and the Irishman?
Well, leave a note in the comments below, and one commenter will be chosen at day’s end to receive a brand new copy of Jane Austen, A Life – courtesy of Bookstack.
Have a lovely Sunday, won’t you?
And, do please tell me, what have you been reading this week?
Postscript: Just a quick word before we turn off the lights and snuggle under the covers. I thoroughly enjoyed tonight’s production of Northanger Abbey, and found it much more entertaining than last week’s version of Persuasion (which i must admit disappointed me just a tad.) Felicity Jones as Catherine was fresh, delightful, and charming, with just the right amount of innocence. There was instant chemistry between she and JJ Feild (Henry Tilney), and it was such fun to observe her poised on the edge of young womanhood, ready to fall into that dear precipice known as love. (ah, the joys of youth, she thinks fondly). It was a perfectly lovely way to end Sunday…and next week, Mansfield Park, so I’d better run downstairs to the bookstack and search for my copy.
And now, goodnight, all.