I own (funny how the Austen turn of phrase is catching) myself unimpressed by the writings of Miss Austen. I was given a copy of Pride and Prejudice for Christmas when I was thirteen, and I did not like it. Too much dialogue, too many words, and girls talking in ways I do not think girls ever talk. "Why, Mr Darcy, I own myself disinclined, &c". And nothing ever happens except girls getting married, because that is what girls are supposed to do, in fact all they can do. Which is frankly depressing. Although true. And of course Miss Austen herself did not do it. Get married that is.
Anyway, turns out my son is playing Captain Tilney (the bad brother, cad and bounder, seducer etc) Upstairs at the Gatehouse, in Highgate, London, first night 19th April, in a new production of this work, done I am told with musical interludes. Well. So I had to read the bugger before attending this essential evening. The first night I mean. Thanks to Norm for helpful advice. I have read the book. It is about the Sentimental Education of Catherine Morland. Except, and I am not spoiling the book by saying this, it gets cut a bit short because she, er, gets married. Not saying who to. But it is true that Miss Austen apparently gets a bit bored
with the story and ends everything really quickly. Anyway, I think you wanted to know what happens.
Shan't tell you. Because that is not the point. Catherine is a seventeen year old, the fourth of ten children of a clergyman of independent means, and she is sent out to Meet Chaps. First in Bath, then in the mysterious Northanger Abbey. Her brother is much taken with her best friend, Isabella the slapper, and Isabella's brother is much taken with Catherine, who does not much like him, finding him dull. But the Tllneys, ah, they are different. Eleanor, gentle and sympathetic, brother Henry, nice but not sexy, Captain Tilney (Frederick, the heir to the family fortune) and once Isabella lays eyes on Freddie-babes brother of Catherine is out of the window and has his heart duly broken.
Anyway, the General (Tilney senior) takes a dim view of all this, suspecting various people of being after various other people's fortunes, and throws a big sulk.
But - it is a cracker of a read. Did not expect it to be. A teenage girl having her sexual awakening (sort of) "danced in her chair all the way home". Those of us who have ever been teenage girls know what that is like, and it has never been put better outside of certain key issues of Jackie magazine. It is witty in a good way: Tilney on reading history: "The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is vey tiresome.". Note the Austen use of the semicolon. Also: "A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.". I like her almost childlike joking, which she never equalled later, when she sounded wordy and mannered, such as "He is a happy man!" said the general, with a look of very happy contempt."
Now we get to the house. Northanger Abbey. Because all English novels are about houses and money. Lots of rooms and lots of furniture. Lots of creeping about on stairways and lots of unexpected encounters in doorways
Overwrought teenage girl decides her host, father of her intended,(who she does not know is such at this point) has murdered his wife. He has not, as she subsequently discovers. She is mortified: she tells herself that in England, among Christians, potions and poisons are not to be "procured, like rhubarb, from every druggist". Did they get rhubarb from druggists in those days? If so, for what purpose?
Anyway, against my own expectations I say, have a read of this. It was bought by a bookseller but not published, and then was published 13 years later.