Location-based reading – Northanger Abbey

I was in Bath at the weekend (it’s beautiful by the way) and the sheer Jane-Austeny-ness inspired me to download some classic books onto my Kindle.

I highly recommend Project Gutenberg for this kind of thing, it has lots and lots of out-of-copyright books. Books that Amazon will sometimes charge you 77p for! Emma on Amazon, Emma on Project Gutenberg (properly Kindle formatted and everything). Some people think that classic books are boring, but to survive as “classics” they must have something that make people come back to them. (I want to say “to survive as a meme” but there’s really no need for that)

So yes, Bath. One of my friends mentioned that Northanger Abbey takes place in Bath. I squinted slightly and said “which one is that again?”. In my mind there was a hierarchy of Austen books, like this:

  • Pride and Prejudice – most famous, most filmed, most parodied and referenced, Colin Firth
  • Sense and Sensibility – next most famous, Alan Rickman
  • Persuasion – I like it better than Emma but it doesn’t have the sisterly rivalry/sisterly love thing going for it so it comes lower than the top two
  • Emma – arguably more famous than Persuasion (Gwyneth Paltrow, Clueless) but I like it less
  • Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey – I can only remember one plot and couldn’t remember which book it belonged to, but it included putting on a play and the heroine was terribly dull

It turns out the one I could remember was Mansfield Park (and it was agreed to be not one of the best) so I have started reading Northanger Abbey.

Is the girl supposed to be a character in the book, or a reader reading the book?

The first thing I’ve noticed is how self-aware the book is. It speaks directly to the reader and describes our heroine by contrasting her to what a proper heroine should be. How many people think they are being original when they do that?

I’ll also be looking out for references to places I saw. We’ve already had reference to taking a house on Pulteney Street – presumably near Pulteney bridge, a very strange bridge that confuses tourists by looking like any other street with shops on both sides. Some of the shops have windows arranged so that you can stand outside the shop on the bridge and see through the shop, out of the other window, and over the river.

Er, insert the usual lack-of-conclusion closing paragraph here. That’s what I’m doing.

Update Catherine seems remarkably bad at understanding what anyone else is thinking or feeling (or doing when she does not observe them). Yet everyone assumes that she is very sharp and picks up on every hint. This hasn’t yet got her into any sticky sitcom-like situations, but I feel as if it should.


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