Every Saturday, for four blissful years, I spent half a day at my school’s library reading, under the guise of after-school club duty. No one goes to school on a Saturday to read, it would seem and the five of us manning our stations were left kicking our heels behind the checkout counter, the shelves and surfing the then new rage – the Internet. This being a girl’s school, there weren’t any boys to neck with and same-sex relationships are not exactly the open secret it seems today.
During one of those quiet mornings, I picked up my very first Austen. Not the ever popular Pride and Prejudice, nor Emma. No, it was Northanger Abbey. I would like to say that it was covered with dust, untouched, but we librarians took our dusting very seriously. However, there were only three checkout stamps, none of them recent and I managed to finish the book over the course of the month without checking it out (or hiding it).
Now, it was with this sentimental hang-up to Northanger Abbey (a ‘hey, these old books are not as blah as I thought’ moment), that I watched ITV’s 2007 production Northanger Abbey. And, I am very happy to say (since I shelled out twenty quid for a box set), it delivers.
Andrew Davies (who did the screenplays of Bridget Jones, amongst others) did a brilliant job of adapting the book for a modern audience, yet, crucially, rooting it firmly in the Regency. No wobbly modern turns of phrase (yes, I’m looking at you P&P Kiera Knightly version), kissing that is decidedly un-Austen and the characters stayed true to how Austen wrote it. An amazing feat when one considers the film to be only 93 minutes. Compare that with the movie adaptation of all time BBC’s Pride and Prejudice at a whopping 300 min. Incidentally, Davies did that one too, so, I have to declare the man a genius.
The cast gave a splendid performance but it was Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland who stole the show. I love how she conveyed emotion with the slightest flicker, a minute twitch of the head in the right direction; a proper young miss, who, while restrained, remains a person.
In sum, a classic adaptation that hits all the right notes.