Most of the time, when people mention Jane Austen, they immediately think of Pride and Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. True diehards will mention Emma and Persuasion. Mansfield Park occasionally creeps into the discussion.
Personally, I enjoyed Northanger Abbey much more than Persuasion and Mansfield Park. But, in my experience, very few people ever bring up Northanger Abbey.
Why is that?
Perhaps it’s because Northanger Abbey was the first book that Jane Austen wrote but the last one published, her style of writing clearly had evolved over the years as well as her ability to dissect human behavior within the social structure within Regency era upper class.
Or perhaps it’s because Northanger Abbey has a very different storyline. Jane Austen seemed to be making a satirical commentary on the Gothic novels that were popular at the turn of the century. Despite the satire, Jane Austen’s first novel is a love story that, in many ways, is the most believable and true-to-life of all her novels.
Consider both John Thorpe and Henry Tilney, the former who is rather forward in his affections toward Catherine while the latter is much more restrained, leaving Catherine Morland wondering whether or not he does care for her as more than friend. Underlying the romance is John Thorpe’s quest to better himself—he thinks Catherine will inherit money—and Henry Tilney who has money but is rather understated about it.
I don’t know about you but, in my life, far too often I encounter fortune seekers, people who look for quick “Get Rich” schemes or try to rise to fame and fortune by taking short cuts. In some circles, especially with the younger generation, it’s expected that they will be rich and, when forced to work for it, they baulk. Of course, there are always examples of people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice. But I’m sure that most people have one or two John or Isabella Thorpes in their lives.
As an author, I encounter many people who have the Thorpe Syndrome. They like to take from others but rarely give and, if they do, no matter how reluctantly, it’s usually with a caveat for something in exchange. In a strange way, it’s comforting to me to realize that the Thorpe Syndrome is not new, that such personalities existed in Jane Austen’s time.
And that is what I love the most about Jane Austen’s novels. They are timeless classic, books that transcend time and culture. People who read her novels can relate to the storylines, the characters, and the emotions that Jane Austen evokes in us. And, to me, that’s what a great book ought to do.
Sarah Price’s new book, Newbury Acres, A Modern Retelling of Northanger Abby, is set in Amish society and releases on March 21st, 2017. Click HERE to preorder!