July was a quiet reading month for me. It was also a personally busy one which I think had a lot to do with my lack of reading. While I still read every night before bed, I was drifting off to dreamland much sooner than usual! At the end of last month’s post I mentioned that I was trying a new reading technique:
“..a speed-reading method in which you listen to the audiobook at 1.5x speed while reading along.”
It definitely works, people! If you are able to get hold of an e- or hard-copy of a book and the audiobook, I highly recommend you give it a go. Check your local library, especially if they have a digital media section online for ebooks and audiobooks. I finished Northanger Abbey in about 6 days, only reading at night before bed. Score!
Note: Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!
What I read in July
Last month I mentioned how I thought I had read this before, a long time ago. That is correct, though I barely remembered anything, so it was almost like a new-to-me book. My overall impression of this book was positive. It’s known as Austen’s parody of the Gothic novels that were popular when she was writing, so she pokes fun at the genre while using many of its elements. It tells the story of Catherine, a 17-year-old avid novel reader from a modest background who is off for a holiday in Bath with wealthy family friends. While there, she meets Isabella, a vain and materialistic young woman who spends most of her time gossiping and flirting. Isabella ‘adopts’ Catherine and teaches her the ways of Bath and introduces her into society. Catherine also meets a young man named Henry and they get on very well. Unfortunately, Catherine is thrown at Isabella’s brother who, like his sister, is vain and more-or-less stupid. Catherine isn’t keen. Eventually, Catherine is introduced to Henry’s sister and they become fast friends. Catherine is then invited to Henry and his sister’s family home by their father, an appearance- and status-conscious General. Their home is Northanger Abbey and Catherine is most excited because she imagines it to be like the decaying abbeys in her favourite Gothic novels, with tales of tragedy and all sorts of horrors. She’s disappointed on arrival but finds her imagination running wild none-the-less. She enjoys her stay, for the most part, and her relationship with Henry grows (although she is not especially aware that her feelings are reciprocated). Something dramatic happens and it all seems to go pear-shaped, but then, as always, the day is saved and everyone lives happily every after.
The novel is a coming of age and I really like that Austen is telling the story of a younger girl. So far, most of her female leads have been at least 20. I like that she explores the teenage world a bit here, and all the changes and growing up that occurs during that time. Catherine begins as a whimsical girl who is carried away by imaginings heavily influenced by her reading material. She ends as a young woman who is a little bit more grounded and worldly. Aside from Catherine, I found many of the characters interesting, particularly Henry and his family. Isabella and her family were awful but were written in a way that didn’t make me want to punch myself in the face (unlike Mansfield Park). It’s also quite a bit shorter than the other novels so is a quicker read if you just want a taste.
This is an intimate look at Jane Austen’s life, done in a really unique way. Byrne has selected various objects from Austen’s life that have been preserved and uses them as a starting point for illustrating the author’s life. I’ve never read an Austen biography before, just a few bits here and there online, so I didn’t have much else to compare it to. I think my preconceived notions of what Jane must have been like were similar to what was portrayed in the book. I didn’t think she was a boring spinster lady who was constantly sickly or anything. I assumed she would have been lively and her decision not to marry must have been a calculated one. That’s not to say she would never have married had she lived longer and met the right person, but I admire that she refused to settle (as demonstrated by her acceptance and then refusal of a proposal by the brother of childhood friends). She knew it would take a very particular sort of man to be ok with her continued career as an author, without her having to change too many of her ways. She came across as being fearful of pregnancy and childbirth, and although she enjoyed the company of children and loved her nieces and nephews, she didn’t seem to desire motherhood especially. Marriage usually meant having children. Being a wife and mother would surely have meant less time for writing. So, sod that! And fair enough. She knew what she wanted and she wanted to be an author who was greatly admired. Although her novels were published anonymously, she said in many letters that she didn’t actually care very much about concealing her identity. I think she was quite pleased with the reception her work received and didn’t want to shy away from collecting the recognition she felt she deserved.
She wasn’t a shrinker and she didn’t shy away from some attention. She was ballsy, determined, and had an independent spirit. I think Byrne captures this beautifully in her book and I highly recommend this if you’re interested in learning more about Jane Austen.
What I want to read in August
This is the final book for the Jane Austen Book Club I belong to. I think I’ve read this before also? I’m looking forward to it as I hear good things!
Found this on a random library excursion. Have begun it, not really sure. Watch this space.
Literally, anything else that isn’t rubbish!
I’ve had a few false starts lately. One book I just could not get into past the first chapter. Sigh!
Have a good reading month, fellow bookworms! Please do comment and let me know what you’re reading at the moment. xo