Being an alternate look at Northanger Abbey, and supposedly being a ‘diary,’ I found myself rather disappointed by this story. It was some time ago that I had read Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange, but I had fond recollections of it, as it helped to kick off my love for Austen-esque novels. Henry Tilney’s Diary was nothing more than seeing the other side of Northanger Abbey with a little back story – which did not explain much about how Henry Tilney was, nor why his father was as cranky as he was.
This new story by Amanda Grange is supposed to be laid out as a diary, but is nothing more than a story that is separated by dates, not chapters. In a diary, one does not recount conversation word for word, nor does it contain no less than eighteen pages (YES, I counted) of segments from A Sicilian Romance by Anne Radcliffe. Yes, I understand that it helped the reader get an idea in their head as to what a Gothic novel was like, but this reader found it as a means of ‘padding’ the story. It needed much more than this.
Having recently read Northanger Abbey, I was excited when I heard about this story. I enjoyed Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen in the humour and the drama that surrounded Catherine’s life and her flights of fancy from reading too many Gothic novels. However, the story of Henry Tilney was rather flat. I would have liked to have seen more ‘diary’ type entries, then maybe followed by story to fill in. I would have loved to have seen more about Henry’s character. His character was no more well-drawn than in Northanger Abbey. It also would have been nice to learn more about General Tilney’s character...why was he so adamant about his children marrying for money and title? Why did Henry love Gothic novels so much and also enjoyed shopping with his sister? Why did Henry have such a better relationship with Eleanor than with his brother, Frederick? This novel was rather short, and could have taken time to delve into these answers even more... really fleshed out the characters, especially that of Henry, since it was his diary.
What I did enjoy about Ms. Grange’s new story is that story of Eleanor Tilney. The one problem I had with her part, though, was that she sounded the same at age 13 as she did at age 19. However, that aspect aside, it was nice to see her love story with Mr. Thomas Morris. It was nice to see a bit of his character, and it was easy to see why Eleanor fell for him. I even appreciated the ‘gothic’ way he inherited his title and money.
I understand that many Austen-esque authors are taking works of Jane Austen’s and creating new stories. I applaud anyone trying to stay in her voice. However, to have half of your novel taken directly from Jane’s doesn’t really show any talent. It is nice to read a novel based on our beloved Authoress’ works with a few well-known lines thrown in; but to read something that is merely a re-working of the story was not enjoyable by any stretch. There was such potential and hope for this story. On the back of the dust jacket, one of the four quotes was, “Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula” – Maybe Ms. Grange should create a new formula and try her hand at truly fleshing out the story and characters, showing us MORE of her heroes and less of Miss Austen’s original work.
I have to say that I felt a bit cheated by this story. I enjoyed Northanger Abbey twice as much as this ‘diary.’ At least Northanger Abbey was humorous and had me laughing quite frequently at Catherine’s antics. Henry Tilney won this young girl’s heart with his love of novels and his kindness; show more of that aspect, more of what made him who he is, and more of HOW he fell in love with Catherine, instead of a few times of taunting her about her love of the Gothic.