Review of ‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen

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I feel unworthy of reviewing Jane Austen as I’m embarrassed to admit that until now I had only read one of her novels (Persuasion at school) but determined to fill in some of the more obvious gaps in my literary knowledge, I picked up a copy of Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey was the first novel Jane Austen completed, but it languished with a publisher for over a decade before being returned to the author, and sadly it was published just a few months after her dealth.

Northanger Abbey follows Catherine Morland, an unlikely but likeable heroine with a weakness for gothic horror novels such as Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udopho. The plot trots along, though Northanger Abbey itself doesn’t feature until halfway through the story. The first half of the novel is set in Bath where Catherine meets her charming and witty hero, Henry Tilney, and the antagonists, Isabella and John Thorpe, before she is invited to visit the Tilney family’s home, Northanger Abbey.

I won’t give too much away, Northanger Abbey is not the haunted, gothic ruin that Catherine expects but that doesn’t stop her imagination from getting the better of her, and Austen creates an air of mystery and suspense during parts of the story.

This is a novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s satirical and unpretentious, but still manages to elicit sympathy for the characters when misfortunes befall them. If this novel has a fault, it is that Catherine is too sweet-natured, naïve and forgiving, while the antagonists are in contrast too selfish, conceited and devious.

Northanger Abbey seems to be often overlooked compared to Austen’s other novels but it’s easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. I thought it was perfect reading material for a cosy night in and a lovely introduction to Jane Austen’s works.

Time spent with cats is never wasted…

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It was around this time last year that my husband and I adopted our cat, Mara, from a rescue centre. We had just returned from our honeymoon when we decided to get a pet, both of us had cats growing up and missed the energy and routine that pets add to a home.

The cats I had growing up were all rescued: Peach and Lucky were kittens abandoned in a sack on a construction site; Oscar was the runt of a farmyard cat’s litter, he was suffering from a respiratory infection and was left behind when his mother moved her other kittens from one barn to another. Despite having a difficult start in life, all of our rescue cats became such loyal and trusting members of the family that I was determined to give an “unwanted” cat a safe, loving home when my husband and I decided to get a pet of our own.

Although we knew very little about Mara’s background we took a chance on her because she seemed timid but curious and affectionate in the re-homing centre.

Mara has become such a big part of our little family that it’s hard to believe it has only been one year since we adopted her. From the cheerful chirrup when we arrive home from work to the impatient whine at feeding times and the rumbling purr when she’s content, the affectionate nuzzling and playful scampering, stretching across our laps for a snooze or curling up at the bottom of our bed to sleep every night, Mara has made a significant impression on our home and our hearts.

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Bedtime stories…

It’s been so rewarding to watch Mara start to trust us, settle into her new home and slowly overcome her timidity. Nowhere is this more evident than in her playfulness, Mara has progressed from hiding under furniture with all but her two front paws hidden swiping at her toys to scampering, pouncing and leaping after her toys in the middle of the floor with fearless abandon.

I learn so much from observing Mara, she lives in the present moment, she doesn’t ruminate on the past or worry about the future; and I’m always inspired by the pleasure she takes in the simple comforts of life such as companionship, food, play, rest and a warm, safe home.

The thought of coming home to a hug from my husband and nuzzles from Mara is enough to help me keep all the daily stresses and struggles in perspective. The quiet, cosy hours we pass together always fill me with a sense of peace, contentment and gratitude. As the autumn nights grow longer and the weather gets colder, I look forward to the three of us spending many more evenings snuggled up together. Have a lovely week.

Little Reminders to Slow Down

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I’ve noticed a chill in the air in the mornings and evenings, and every day the sun rises a little later and sets a little earlier. There are crisp leaves lying on the ground already, but many more still clinging to the trees gradually turning from green to shades of yellow, amber and red.

Autumn is my favourite season and part of the appeal is its transience. Every year autumn reminds me to slow down and pay attention to the world around me because if I’m wandering around lost in my thoughts or engrossed in my phone, I risk missing the beautiful display nature provides and won’t have another chance to appreciate it until next year.

Slowing down and being present in the moment were very much on my mind this weekend as my husband and I reunited with my family to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. My family are scattered across the country and we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d all like so it was lovely to have everyone together, time to catch up with everyone’s news and to just enjoy being in each other’s company for a while.

There will always be other tasks to be done and things to distract me but time with the people I love most is something worth prioritizing and that I never take for granted. It is little moments like these, full of laughter, chatter and birthday cake, that help me to weather all the stresses and storms of life.

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We were delayed by roadworks on the way home. I could’ve been annoyed by the delay, but I chose to be grateful that the road was still open and that we eventually arrived home safely. I realize that neither my grumbling nor my gratitude made the traffic move any faster but feeling thankful made the journey more pleasant.

Gratitude and mindfulness don’t always come naturally to me, it’s a choice I have to make and remake over and over again. So many of us rush through life, always impatient for the next place, the next time, that we never really notice or appreciate where are are or what we’re doing now. Nature, however, is full of little reminders to slow down and take notice, such as the pretty sunset we were rewarded with during our delay. Have a lovely week.