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Happy 235th Jane!

December 17, 2010

The poster girl for literary spinsterhood turns 235 today, and tributes have been pouring in from all over the bloggosphere – even Google UK did a doodle to mark the occasion. I too thought I would contribute my commemorations, and take my lead from Jane Greensmith over at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing and write about my Austen Epiphany.

My first Austen was Northanger Abbey, and at about 11 or 12 it was the first grown-up book I ever read. I wish I could say there was a worthy reason why I was drawn to it, but I must confess that it was the cover – lots of women in pretty dressed – that made me pick it up from the one spinning rack of “adult” books in the school library (then as now that’s enough to get me to at least read the blurb).  I had previously tried to read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, giving up upon encountering the mystifying word “marrows” (in all honesty I’m still not entirely sure what a marrow is…), but despite not understanding a great deal of Northanger, I persevered as Catherine Morland appealed to my over imaginative self.  Not being fully versed in the nuances of satire or the Gothic novel,  I approaching the story with the same sort of naiveté Cathy does, becoming disabused about everyones faults along with her, and savouring all the balls and over-the-top haunted house drama.

Even though it would be many years before I read Austen and understood her, I was hooked.  I like Northanger even better now than when I first read it,  but even as I giggle at Austen’s spot on skewering of teenage fancy and literary romanticism, part of me wishes I could be that precocious eleven-year old again, enjoying a ripping yarn and discovering the greatest English novelist for the first time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 17, 2010 3:30 pm

    I loved reading your epiphany. I think you’re fairly unusual in having NA as a first read, but I remember being swept along with Catherine too and praying that she wouldn’t be really kidnapped by John Thorpe!

    I’ve been known to succumb to cover art as well 🙂

    Great post!

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