Back to Back
2 Novels by Jane Austen
Some novels, some authors, some author’s novels are Not meant to be read back to back!
I am talking about Jane Austen’s “
” (1814) & “Northanger
Abbey” (1817, although first given to publish in 1803!). Mansfield
Both are coming-of-age stories of 2 young naïve girls.
When I started, I realized that I’d read (And watched) it before, but continued nonetheless, because details were largely forgotten.
The protagonist was a bit depressing, but overall, the story worked out satisfactorily. The end, though, was very abrupt …. as if the author ran out of time, space, ideas, patience, or whatever.
Kind of reminded me of Yash Chopra’s films that start off well enough, with lots of romantic twists & turns, but then come to such an abrupt, unconvincing “Huh, what the ….?!” end ! Stopped watching them, too.
orthanger Abbey – to me the only redeeming feature was it’s underlying sense of sarcasm & humor, a story in a lighter vein, despite the frequent “vexations”.
But I could Not connect with the heroine & the narration was not engaging enough (with some proselytizing about novels & their effect/impact on young minds). Maybe if I hadn’t read it immediately after finishing Mansfield Park, I might have found it a bit more pleasing, although her gothic fears were a bit over-the-top. It did, however, remind me of a neighbour we once had. This young teenager was so addicted to RL Stine books (horror fiction stories) that she would wake up screaming at night ! So, maybe if I was younger, I might have appreciated the story/heroine more? I enjoyed horror back then.
My take on back to back reading
hatever their individual merits or demerits, my main point is this :
When you read independent, unrelated, non-serialized stories by the same author, in immediate succession, you discover many similarities & repetitions, which might not have been apparent if reading is spaced out (unless one has an eidetic memory). Back to back reading tends to highlight some “weaknesses” in a writer, which would’ve gone unnoticed by a casual reader. It is a difficult act to pull off with aplomb (although some authors are successful - will talk about such an experience in a future post).
Speaking of these 2 novels, the setting, the basic characters, the supporting characters, their basic personalities, their value systems, their backgrounds, the professions, their state & status in life & in family, etc. etc. were so very similar ! It felt like the writer had a good thing going with the character-building for one story & used the very same framework for the other. While Northanger Abbey was written earlier (with some alterations later), but since I read it After Mansfield Park, I found it quite a drag to finish – had to force myself to get through it.
Again, my impressions may be more biased because of the sequence & timing of reading than actual merits of each story. There could also have been some fatigue in reading about the same period, & same circumstances, & similar romances. But it is as it is.
I did want to read “Emma” again (been a looong time); but I am firmly decided on waiting at least One year before taking it up. Meanwhile, on to some serious reading – too much mushiness, despite a sweet tooth, is not good for my health ;-).
Disclaimer: These are my personal impressions, not a formal or literary critique, & in no way discount the immense talent of the writer. It is easy to criticize, but so difficult to actually write !
**** happy reading ****