Friday 8 November 2019

The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall - Blog Tour - Review

Blog Tour: The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall

The blog tour for Diana Birchall's Northanger Abbey sequel, The Bride of Northanger, stops here today for my review of the book. I read Northanger Abbey a few years ago and would heartily recommend it. I was very interested to read this sequel, because so much Austenesque that I read is based on Pride & Prejudice and it's good to have a change. I have also read very few sequels of the stories, so I was intrigued to where Diana Birchall would take these characters. Let's look at the blurb, and then we will move on to what I thought of The Bride of Northanger.

Book cover: The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall
Book Description

A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share - that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real...until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied - events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other ...

My Review of The Bride of Northanger

The Bride of Northanger is a sequel to Northanger Abbey. We pick up the story right before Catherine marries Henry Tilney. Before the wedding, Henry has a confession… his family is cursed! Of all the people who would have been attracted to this notion, it would have been Catherine Morland when we first met her. Having been caught out by imagining the gothic, Catherine has worked to overcome her imagination and become a more serious person, so at first she can’t believe what Henry is saying.

The original Abbey was taken over by force during the Reformation of the monasteries and one of the last monks left a curse on the Tilney family – the wife of the eldest son will die prematurely. Although this curse wouldn’t fall on Catherine, as she is marrying the younger son, Henry feels that it’s only right to tell her, so that she has time to withdraw from the marriage, should she choose to.

Being now a logical, sensible person, Catherine decides to go ahead and marry her beloved Henry, and they set off to make their new lives in his rectory. Soon after arriving they are summoned to stay with General Tilney at Northanger Abbey. He has forgiven Henry, in a fashion, for his imprudent marriage, but he is still not fully reconciled to the match. Henry and Catherine set off for Northanger Abbey. Catherine still doesn’t really believe in the ‘curse’:
“Much as I foolishly wished it, I did not see anything horrid, when I was there,” she paused, without adding her private thought, “Except your father.”
At the Abbey, we meet with General Tilney, the now married Eleanor Tilney, and her husband, and even in time Captain Tilney. At first, nothing seems amiss, aside from the dire warning left on Catherine’s door:
“Bride of Northanger, beware the Maledict, that falleth upon you. Depart the Abbey in fear and haste, and nevermore return.”
As time goes on, we descend further into the Gothic, with a ghost, and the return of the curse, which, rather than strike Catherine, seems instead to be striking elsewhere as things in parts of the Tilney family start to quickly unravel…

Blog Tour: The Bride of Northanger by Diana BirchallIn Northanger Abbey, the time that Catherine actually finds herself in a situation that she might have found in one of her ‘horrid’ novels, being sent away at dawn, alone, some practical good sense manifests itself, and she actually deals with the situation very well. In this novel, she deals with every bad happening with good sense in just the same way, she just rolls up her sleeves and does what is needed:
Catherine was silent. Even in her most lurid girlhood fancies, and hair-raising perusals of horrid novels, she had never heard of a heroine, or any young woman, having to sit up all night locked in with a corpse; and certainly in her wildest imaginings she had never imagined that she would have to do such a thing herself.
One thing I particularly appreciated about this novel was the author’s prose. I felt the style was quite reminiscent of Austen, much more so than many other Austen-inspired novels that I’ve read. In a way, I felt that this similarity in style juxtaposed with the content, which was decidedly un-Austen. The things that happen in this story are much more Gothic in tone. I know that this was purposeful, but it was also quite unsettling! Some characters come to pretty gruesome endings and although the Tilneys express shock and upset, less is expressed than I would have expected.

By its very nature, some parts of this book were a stretch to believe, but there were a couple of things which rang false for me, such as a marriage taking place without a special licence or banns being read and something else which would be a huge spoiler to tell you!

I was looking forward to becoming reacquainted with the characters from the first book. I liked Catherine in this; she seemed more mature, but just as capable in a tight squeeze. Henry was kind, but for me was missing the sparkle and banter that makes him such a delightful hero.

The rendition of General Tilney was interesting. The curse actually gave him a feasible reason for being the unfeeling person that he was:
You will also remember how often I have vainly urged you to make a practical, prudent marriage, one that would bring money and security into the family, without involving your heart over much. If your wife must suffer a terrible fate, it would be better to have a financial arrangement rather than a marriage of sentiment that would only involve your own distress.
One character that I thought was both well done and pretty unpleasant was John Thorpe. We love to hate him, don’t we!

In terms of categorisation I’m not sure where you’d put this. It’s a sequel to Northanger Abbey so perhaps a family saga would be the best bet.

In summary, I thought this was an interesting book which is worth reading. You would definitely have had to have read Northanger Abbey first – there are some reminders in the text about things that happened in NA so you wouldn't get entirely lost but to get the full flavour it would be a huge benefit to read the novel. It would also help the reader have a proper appreciation for how much Catherine wished for the Gothic, and how little she actually enjoys it when it happens! I would rate this a 4 star read.

4 star read

Note: I was provided with a review copy of this book for my honest review. Thank you to Diana Birchall, and thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for arranging the blog tour.

Author Bio

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen's style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale. Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Book cover: The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall
Buy Links

The Bride of Northanger is available to buy now!

Amazon Paperback / Amazon eBook / Barnes & Noble eBook / Goodreads / Publishers

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The Bride of Northanger Blog Tour Schedule - it's a whopper!

Blog Tour: The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall

October 28              My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
October 28              Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
October 28              vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)                       
October 29              A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide of Life (Guest Blog)
October 29              From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
October 30              Drunk Austen (Interview)
October 30              Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
October 31              Jane Austen’s World (Review)
November 01          So Little Time… (Interview)
November 01          Laura's Reviews (Review)
November 04          English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)
November 04          Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
November 05          More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
November 05          Vesper’s Place (Review)
November 06          Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
November 06          Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)
November 07          All Things Austen (Spotlight)
November 07          A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
November 07          Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)  
November 08          Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
November 08          vvb32 Reads (Review)
November 11          My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
November 11          Reading the Past (Spotlight)
November 12          Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
November 12          The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
November 13          The Book Rat (Review)
November 13          Austenesque Reviews (Review)
November 14          Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)
November 14          The Fiction Addiction (Review)
November 15          My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
November 15          Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)          

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  1. "I felt the style was quite reminiscent of Austen, much more so than many other Austen-inspired novels that I’ve read." Considering how much you enjoy Jane Austen's writing Ceri, I think that this is the best possible complement you could give an author. I really enjoyed this fun read. It was great being back in Catherine and Henry's world by such capable hands. Thanks for the review. I always enjoy your insights.

    1. Hi Laurel-Ann. It is a huge compliment to the author, because she does a great job of writing in a similar style.

  2. Thank you for a very insightful critical review, Ceri - I'm so very glad you liked my prose! :-)

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I really enjoyed your prose. I certainly didn't mean any criticism, I am all too aware that I would have no hope of ever writing a novel, let alone one as good as this :)

  3. I agree about enjoying more representation of stories from the other books. Her Austenesque tone was great and oh yes, it got positively gothic. :)
    Glad you had a good time with it.

    1. Hi Sophia. Next year I need to make a positive effort to read more books based on the other novels. I did that to celebrate the bicentenary of MP, and found it very enjoyable. Thanks so much for stopping by!


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