Monday, 15 December 2014

Books I Read - IV

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Back to Back Reading
2 Novels by Jane Austen

 Mea culpa. I take full blame.
Some novels, some authors, some author’s novels are Not meant to be read back to back!

I am talking about Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park” (1814) & “Northanger Abbey” (1817, although first given to publish in 1803!).

Both are coming-of-age stories of 2 young naïve girls.

Mansfield Park

ansfield Park was okay.
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.

Northanger Abbey

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 ****


  1. Ah yes, I take your point, it's possible to have too much of a good thing! And sometimes you just have to be in the right mood to read a particular author. I had Northanger Abbey a set book once. We were told that the over the top gothic was really the point - JA was having a dig at gothic authors.

    1. To be sure, the underlying & at times overt sarcasm & humour through the story was what got me through ... You are right about the deliberate exaggeration and can't say she was out of line, as young, growing, formative minds can be affected / influenced !

      I appreciate your observations and insight, Jane :-)

  2. I completely understand. I read two books back to back by Pearl S. Buck. The first one "East Wind, West Wind" was awesome, but the second "The New Year" was just average. There are so many good authors out there it's a good idea to mix things up and not get bored.

    1. And I have such a backlog of books bought & not yet read, that I have no excuse for not mixing authors, stories, genres ;-P

      I've read 2 of Pearl S Buck's books & really loved "Peony" .... It was my first intro to Chinese culture !

  3. I love the bookmark with flowers <3 <3

    1. That is the Dandelion Chain link bookmark designed by Teri Dusenbury. I wrote about it in an earlier post "Tatting Away - II". It is one of my favourite bookmarks :-)
      Oh, and it is a free pattern - on Teri 's blog.