Wednesday, 11 January 2012

2 Classics down, 10 to go.

Nothing like hitting these Not Really Resolutions running I think and somehow I’ve managed to get two under my belt before the second week of January is up.

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is also the first book I have ever read on my Kindle so well done to it. Round of applause please. The Magic Toyshop was one of the last books I bought in 2011 as a Christmas present to myself, having saved up some pennies. My copy is one of the Virago Modern Classics with the beautiful hardcovers.

I was actually looking for Mansfield Park on my Kindle but of course, my luck being what it is, this is one of the few Classics you actually had to pay for (not much, but I want to spend as little as possible at the moment). So I went for Northanger Abbey. I have to be honest, I’m pretty sure the only Jane Austen I’ve read is Pride and Prejudice, although I think I’ve picked others up from time to time.

Northanger Abbey felt completely different to Pride and Prejudice though – I mean not so much in terms of plot, but the style of writing was very different and it threw me a little bit, I’ve obviously underestimated Miss Austen.

Bizarrely enough, the Northanger Abbey of the title isn’t even mentioned until you’re half way through the book which was frustrating at times, I was reading it and questioning what the hell it was all about. And to be honest I didn’t really feel like it was that relevant to the story – although maybe that’s just because my over-analytical A-level English Literature skills have now officially deserted me.

The story follows Catherine Morland, a young 18 year old, who goes to Bath with some friends of the family. There she meets the odious Isabella Thorpe, who you want to give a good slap to, and her equally fatuous brother, John Thorpe. She also meets Mr Henry Tilney, who she falls in love with completely and his sister Miss Eleanor Tilney, a much nicer friend than Isabella.

Catherine is eventually invited to Northanger Abbey, the home of the Tilneys, and it’s then that things kind of go a bit haywire and Austen appears to be trying her hand at a bit of crime fiction with a frankly weird storyline that goes absolutely nowhere about a possible murder.

She is unceremoniously turned out of Northanger and sent home without reason given and she thinks she will never again see her Mr Tilney.

But does she?

I’ll leave you to find out.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this book, it’s certainly different, but it felt so odd and disjointed in places that I couldn’t say I absolutely definitively loved it.

The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

No book could be further from Northanger Abbey than this one. It’s part fairy story, part grim reality and you are helplessly swept along with the story.

Melanie and her two younger siblings are sent to live with relatives they have never met, following the death of their parents. They slip from a privileged life into one of dirt and grime with no money. Uncle Philip is the head of the household and only appears to care about his puppets, which he spends time in the basement crafting, to put on shows for the rest of the family. Aunt Margaret is mute and her two brothers, Francie and Finn, live with the couple, Finn helping out in the toyshop that earns Uncle Philip a living.

It is uncomfortable in places to read but is absorbing at the same time but I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by the ending which just felt rushed and a bit clumsy. I can’t explain more about the book without giving too much away but it was one of those books that felt both beautiful and awful in equal measure.

Definitely one to pick up.


  1. Oh Angela... she´s always writing odd novels! Have you read the one about crazy old lady twins? xxx

  2. Hey - two good choices. I think you need to realise with Northanger Abbey is that it is ridiculing the gothic era and its fiction a hell of a lot. Catherine is reading The Mysteries of Uldopho and they also discuss The Monk (which you so should read by Matthew Gregory Lewis). If you read these books and understand their style you will see that Northanger Abbey is a complete paraody... (and that's Miss I did and English Degree and studied the Gothic Era talking for you)....

    Angela Carter - well I haven't read The Magic Toyshop but she is fantastic...A Company of Wolves...again we studied her at degree level...she's lush! xxx

  3. Ah I love those fancy hardcovers, bought a couple of copies of A Christmas Carol for pressies last year :)

    I'm sure I went to see Northanger Abbey a year or so ago, but can't remember much of it and now I'm wondering if it was Mansfield Park...? Hmm, anyway, I've got some catching up to do if I want to join you on this year's 12 Classics!!


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