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Northanger Abbey

March 21, 2010

Jane Austen reminds me of Elmore Leonard.  Both novelists seem to write the same story over and over again, yet I do not tire of reading either author’s works. I cannot put my finger on what it is that makes me like them despite their predictability, but nevertheless I do.

I came to reading Austen much later than many, picking up Persuasion a few years ago at the age of 31. I was to be staying in Hampshire for a month on a professional exchange program and wanted to read something by the region’s most famous author in preparation. While I was there I toured Austen’s home, and my host gave me a copy of Pride and Prejudice as a souvenir. Since then have enjoyed Mansfield Park. Most recently I read Northanger Abbey, which follows what I perceive to be the recipe for a typical Austen novel:


  • An innocent young woman of admirable character whose prospects are not necessarily assured, but to whom the reader can relate and develop affection toward. Note:  must be the variety that does not have immediate designs on marriage
  • A handsome and honourable love interest who is apparently out of her league in some way.
  • A new friend
  • Engagement
  • A visit to Bath
  • A crisis


  • A dozen walks
  • Several balls (to taste)
  • A pinch of treachery or scandal (or mix the two for variety)
  • A dash each of gossip and sewing


Prepare the heroine by marinating in walks and sewing. Apply the first ball then introduce love interest. Tenderize both with more walks and balls, adding a carriage ride if required.  Remove heroine and place her with a new friend and/or a tiresome relative. Gradually add remainder of walks and sprinkle with gossip. Fold love interest back into this mixture and add another ball or two to taste. Mix in a few drops of treachery or substitute scandal if desired. Once these ingredients have been mixed until smooth, pour into pan and add crisis all at once, which will cause the mixture to foam in a dramatic fashion and the heroine and love interest to separate.  At the last moment, stir in engagement which will emulsify the mixture and cause it to set.


One Comment leave one →
  1. March 22, 2010 10:45

    Agree with you about Austin.
    And….I didn’t read my first Austin ’til I was in my 40’s!! I didn’t have the patience to read her any earlier. 18th, 19th century writers filled a lot of pages with physical descriptions: home, property, landscape, dress, faces, what things LOOKED LIKE. (No TV series or movie to follow it up!)
    I do love Austin, while I also love writers like Roddy Doyle – 90% of his novels consist of dialogue.
    “Ah, yer an eejit”
    “No I’m not you Janie”
    “Aw screw off, am goin’ to the pub…”
    After reading Doyle’s “The Snapper” I didn’t even know what the main character – Sharon Rabbitt – looked like!
    To be honest…..there are parts of older novels that I skim over, when I see 3 pages of description and no dialogue.

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