I’ve been reading The Mysteries of Udolpho since August. I don’t think I’ve ever had a relationship last this long with a book, and yes, relationship is the right word for it. I started the journey with two connected books: Midnight in Austenland and Northanger Abbey. I read them in reverse order of how they came out and how they’re connected.
I started with Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale, which was published in 2012. I had read Austenland a couple of years earlier after seeing the movie (Totally amazing. Watch it. You’ll giggle to death), and I eventually got my hands on the sequel and decided Jane Austen was as good a place as any to end my summer. Midnight in Austenland was so funny! I actually liked it more than Austenland. The writing, especially the dialogue, was natural and fast-paced. I was impressed by the characterization and the depth it revealed. As usual with funny books, I pulled out a couple of gems for you:
“Standing before a stranger in her underwear was never a good time, but especially not in weird underwear.”
“It’s hard to keep questions spinning in your brain when thoughts are even heavier than eyelids. Even stories need a chance to sleep.” (Maybe this one isn’t so funny, but it is a great quote).
“Hold still! she commanded her hands. Be cool! she told her voice. They didn’t obey. Traitors.”
Austen was a master realist writer, and Hale is a master at mixing the realism of Austen’s time period with modern reality. She also does a great job of conveying how much people can love their favorite authors and novels. Midnight in Austenland was largely inspired by Northanger Abbey. Obviously, the only rational thing for me to do was to read Austen’s novel next.
This time was actually my second for reading Northanger Abbey. I was just as delighted, if not more, with it a second time. This book is often treated as the ugly stepchild of Jane Austen’s literary legacy, and I think that’s garbage. It’s amazing and probably my second favorite after Pride and Prejudice (which is my favorite book of all time). I find myself laughing out loud while reading Northanger Abbey because the satire and wit throughout the novel is just that good. There is also a great deal of wisdom throughout the book as well. Have some sass and knowledge courtesy of Jane:
“A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”
“Absence will in time make him comfortable again; but he can have no hope here, and it is only staying to be miserable.”
“I will not say, ‘Do not be uneasy,’ because I know that you are so, at this moment; but be as little uneasy as you can.”
As you may know if you have read Northanger Abbey, our dear heroine Catherine Morland spends a significant amount of time reading The Mysteries of Udolpho and being amazed about the Gothic tale and its mysteries. Why stop now? Of course I read it next! About this book… I read Midnight in Austenland and Northanger Abbey in one day each. Then I started The Mysteries of Udolpho on August 12th and have just now finished it on November 4th.
You may be thinking that the book wasn’t good or entertaining enough to hold my attention. Au contraire! It has taken me this long because I got really busy with work, school, and a new relationship. Normally when I get busy, I just give up on whatever I’m reading for pleasure and add it back to the to-read shelf. But I just could not let The Mysteries of Udolpho go. I carried it around with me (quite a feat considering it’s 620 pages) and stole illicit moments to read it when I could.
It’s an amazing novel. She introduces so many mysteries and intrigues that you could easily be lost and overwhelmed except for the fact that Radcliffe includes enough calming picturesque description to keep the reader calm while their emotions and minds are being pushed to the limit as they follow the adventures of Emily St. Aubert. People should be reading Radcliffe, and particularly this novel, more.
I was so fascinated by this story, and it was very comforting to know it was always there waiting for me. I’m a little sad that it’s over now, and I’m not sure how to move on to another book or which one to move on to. This post sounds like a break up, and it sort of feels like one. It was worth it though.