Audiobook: Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen
Read by Donada Peters
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Next up on my “reading Jane Austen” this year project was Northanger Abbey. It was more of a whim; I haven’t listened to any Austen in a while, and I was at the library, and this one just jumped out at me. I remembered reading it a while ago (2008, it turned out; follow the link if you want a plot summary), but I didn’t remember much else. I was excited to get going.

But… when I put it on, I realized that it was the same reader as Madame Bovary. Remember when I didn’t know if it was the book or the reader?? I’m here to tell you that it was at least 60% the reader. Because, while I plowed through this one (it’s JANE AUSTEN, and I can’t bail on her), I didn’t get much out of it. Peters’ voice grates on me, and I ended up tuning things out and missing huge chunks of the story.

Things I did get: John Thorpe is a complete jerk. Boorish, manipulative, and possibly one of the worst male characters Austen invented. He’s not a cad, or a rake, or even a Bad Guy. No: he thinks he’s Noble and Right, but he’s a bully, and that’s what makes him so terrible.

Along the same lines, General Tilney is shallow and boorish as well. Maybe they needed to exist so that Henry — who is a little on the dull side — would shine.

That said, Catherine herself is a silly, silly girl. Emma is, too, but in a completely different way. Catherine lets her imagination run away with her, but that’s really all she is. (Emma’s a snob, but there’s some growth there by the end of the book.) I didn’t feel like there was any growth, any reason for Henry to fall in love with Catherine other than she was pretty and nice. It was kind of unsatisfying, in the end. Which, by the way, I felt was rushed, a little.

Still not my favorite Jane Austen, but I also have to blame the reader for my lackluster reaction to this. Maybe sometime I’ll see if a different person read another edition of the audiobook and see if I have a different reaction.

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