Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: "A Night at Northanger" by Lauren Willig

I wrote this post in mid November and never published it. Oh this disordered Mommy brain of mine!

As I slowly make my way through Jane Austen Made Me Do It, beautifully edited by Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose fame, I felt the need to go back and review a story I had previously determined not to: "A Night at Northanger" by Lauren Willig. The tale has grown on me while lingering in my mind ever since I finished it a few weeks ago. Though I was immediately impressed with Ms. Willig's writing (which I had been meaning toexplore for quite sometime), the premise she sets for this story initially left me a bit discombobulated. It begins with our main character Cate, a disgruntled television personality working on a ghost hunting show, descending with her crew upon Northanger Abbey, home of Mr. Moreland Tilney-Tilney, whom I presume to be the horribly inbred descendant of Austen's hero and heroine. Though Cate has absolutely no belief in ghosts, she and her companions are predetermined to uncover something terrifying in the old Abbey, regardless of their host's goodnatured insistence that the house is far from haunted: " mean that rubbish by the lady novelist! Frightfully famous, too, can't think of her name at the moment. Crashing bore, all this dance and that aunt and who's going to marry whom. Don't go in for that sort of thing myself." So it is to Cate's immense surprise that she meets a very real apparition, demanding to know what she is doing in her room and prepared to dole out life advice.

As mentioned above, the notion of a paranormal reality show in the context of an Austen tribute jarred me at first. I really can't stand that sort of programming and was unable to conjure up any sympathy for Cate, who repeatedly laments the fact that she has yet to become the next Barbara Walters, but then the ghost showed up to entrance me. I do not want to completely spoil the story, so let me just quote the extremely sage career advice that the ghost provides a somewhat befuddled Cate:
"An independence," mused the apparition. "Not something at which one would sneer. Even so..." She seated herself on a chair that wasn't there and looked thoughtfully at a fire that wasn't lit. "Poverty is a great evil, but to a woman of education and feeling, it ought not, it cannot be, the worse."
This story keeps running through my head - haunting me, one might say. I've now reread it twice and imagine I will continue to come back for more. The notion of conversing with this particular ghost is so appealing; I keep wondering how she would advise me on the cares and concerns I encounter each day. When I do finally find more time to read again I will definitely move on reading some of Ms. Willig's Pink Carnation books, which had loitered in my TBR pile for far too long. 

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