Warning: do not read the below if you haven’t read either of these books, because I will almost certainly accidentally tell you who ends up married to whom.
Having finished and only quite enjoyed Emma, I’m not sure why I immediately picked up Northanger Abbey, but I did and I’m glad, because I loved it. It’s a bit disjointed, but it’s funny and pacy and has characters who are either comically awful or likeable and charming – especially the heroine, Catherine Morland, who is the most engaging heroine I’ve come across since Anne of Green Gables. And for once she falls in love with someone who actually sounds attractive, rather than with a pompous buffoon. Good.
I was less keen on Mansfield Park. For one thing, it’s really long, and though structurally it makes more sense than either Northanger Abbey or Emma, there’s lots that feels repetitive. For another, the heroine is a pissy, prissy little wimp. I kept hoping that her saintly self-sacrifice and po-faced piousness were hiding something more interesting, but no. Fortunately, she gets to marry someone quite as mealy-mouthed and solemn as herself, presumably so that they can spend eternity pointedly disapproving of everyone else. Good for them, but I wasn’t sure the 400 pages it took me to get them there were worth the time I spent on them. And although there are nasty characters, there are no laughs. It reads rather like one of the dreary but morally improving novels which Austen is so wittily rude about in Northanger Abbey. Perhaps she lost her cheek as she got older and more ill.
I still have Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility to read, but I think I’ll give myself a short break from Jane Austen first. Last week I accidentally bought three science books, so I might read one of those next, after which I’ll no doubt be desperate to fling myself back into the world of matrimony and means (one of the books should have been called that. Actually, all of the books could have been called that).