So here I am, another summer at home, biding time until my mid-fall trip. Everyone else is on their way to exciting destinations – or, in any case, cooler destinations. To avoid envy and discontent while I wait out the 100+ degree summer, there is clearly only one thing to do: travel vicariously through books. Any destination desired is within reach of my bookshelf (or local library). I can cross time zones effortlessly without worrying about jet lag. I can even travel back in time into a favorite historical period without having to strap myself into some sort of futuristic time machine. In short, I can create the ultimate vacation that will not only encompass the greatest cities in the world, but also their multiple historical periods. Why not, I thought, choose the place one has always longed to visit, and a time period in which one has always wanted to live, and create the perfect summer trip which is traveled from the inimitable comfort of home?
So I decided to create an imaginary itinerary. Where to go and for how long? After much thought I realized that most of my favorite books are by British authors (the great writers England has produced is incomparable to any other nation thus far), so it only makes sense to travel to the UK for my summer journey. I plan on traipsing through a different book each day for a week (please note that I am reviewing books already finished - there is simply no way I could seriously read through an entire book in one day!). I hope you enjoy my journey as much as I shall enjoy sharing some of my favorite authors and books with you in my hopeful attempt to imagine myself away from the summer heat. :)
Day One (Book One): Bath, England
Year 1817 - Regency Era
I would be a remiss travel guide if I neglected to start with a universally acknowledged authoress, whose wit and wisdom in six (finished) novels continue to bridge time and culture to capture the heart of every woman who has dreamed of finding a Darcy, and every man who has dreamed of finding a Lizzie. Shall I throw in an early surprise on your trip? We will not read Pride and Prejudice on this journey. Rather than set our romantic hearts fluttering for a hero we will never have the opportunity to meet, we will travel within a book that contains a little less romance (is that really possible for Austen?) and which is set in a town more suitable for a summer escape. You may have guessed now that I speak of Northanger Abbey.
Ms. Austen's shortest novel follows a young girl on her first outing from home, in the fashionable seaside resort town of Bath. Naïve, pretty, sweet, occasionally showing some wisdom but often falling short of it, Catherine Morland is certainly the silliest of Ms. Austen's otherwise brilliant heroines. But this novel isn't meant to be taken seriously; in fact, it was written to parody the hugely popular (and largely forbidden) gothic romance novels that were devoured by impressionable young women in Ms. Austen's time. We are meant to laugh at dark castles with imaginary pasts, a seemingly authoritative and menacing father, a brutish suitor, an impossibly patient friend (and eventual love interest) and a heroine who conjures up impossible plots to fulfill her vivid imagination. Thankfully, at the end of the story, Catherine is wiser, humbler, and (amazingly) loved by a noble clergyman.