Henry Tilney’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Henry Tilney's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Guest review by Christina Boyd

Albeit Jane Austen first sold Northanger Abbey to a publisher in 1803 (at first entitled Susan), it did not appear in print until 1817 when it was published after her death as a four volume set with her final novel Persuasion. In Northanger Abbey, Miss Morland is a daughter of a well-to-do clergyman, unabashed Gothic novel reader, and heroine-in-the-making, “Something must happen and will happen to throw a hero in her way.” Northanger Abbey, Chapter 1. Upon leaving her family home in the quiet village of Fullerton for the excitement of the resort town of Bath, the good-hearted and suggestible Miss Morland is entangled in a plait of plausible falsehoods fabricated by more sophisticated people she encounters. Invited to Northanger Abbey, the country home of the Tilney family, Catherine lets her Gothic-infused imagination run wild during her visit there. She suspects something sinister — true, but as in all Austen’s major works, money is the real labyrinth. Cloaked in a black veil of parody, Jane Austen subtly mocks the Gothic novel with actual dangers, fears, anxieties and misfortunes that torment Catherine Morland, making it relevant to the age in which she lived.

Author Amanda Grange’s latest offering Henry Tilney’s Diary, mirrors Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, but from the male protagonist’s point of view. When the young clergyman Henry Tilney is to be the hero, as in so many of the Gothic novels that he so fond of reading, the perverseness of his upbringing in a medieval home with a choleric, militaristic father, an aggrieved, sickly mother, his burlesque lothario of an older brother and a kindly, pretty sister cannot prevent him. Grange has scripted a rich back-story, starting with Henry’s first entries in his diary at approximately age 15.  We are privy to his most private thoughts regarding his parents, his mother’s illness, his sister Eleanor and her secret amour, and of course, how his rake of a brother Frederick came to be.  I found Henry so unlike other Austen heroes. He takes nothing seriously unless required, yet, is so self-assured that he has ready opinions on everything from marriage, politics and even fine muslin!

As in Grange’s previous books in the Austen diaries series, the entries are dated which is helpful in keeping the timeline in focus. She masterfully writes our hero’s thoughts and recollections with a strong, clear voice, seasoned with his wit, charm and satirical eye as Tilney attempts to influence others to rationality, even while on his search to find his own heroine. “‘Papa says I am the cleverest girl he has ever met. Captain Dunston remarked upon it as well.  But I think he is a very stupid fellow.’ ‘He must be,’ I said; a remark which she did not understand, but which made her smile, for she liked to think of my sharing her opinion of the captain.’” p. 97.  Fortunately, this Miss Smith did not suit.

Negotiating through a world that is oftentimes mendacious, and a society that is characterized by guile and polite fabrication, when Henry does meet Miss Catherine Morland, a pretty, young lady of meager fortune, he can’t help but be enchanted by her fresh charm and glorious honesty. And to discover her love of reading, it would seem he had found his match! Amused by her description of the south of France, “I could not help smiling when she went on, ‘It always puts me in the mind of the country that Emily and her father traveled through, in The Mysteries of Udolpho.’  Eleanor and I looked at each other, delighted to have found another fellow admirer of Udolpho. Your heroine?  Eleanor mouthed silently to me.  I smiled, for Miss Morland certainly had all the hallmarks of a heroine.” p.115.

When General Tilney, who has pre-determined his children will make wealthy marital conquests, takes an unlikely interest in Catherine, even inviting her to visit their home, Henry is pleasantly surprised. Later after an indulgent evening of laughter with just the three young people, “‘This is how it will be when we are married,’ I said to Eleanor, when Catherine had retired for the night. ‘I am sorry for it, but there it is.  My wife will not secretly resent you, as you believed when we were children. She will not slowly poison you, or lock you in the attic.’  Eleanor gave a sigh. ‘We must all bear our disappointments in life, dear brother, and it seems that having a good and charming sister, who loves me as much as I love her, is destined to be one of mine.’” p. 191. While Henry admits to himself his affection for Catherine, he also discovers her suggestible imagination has led her to suspect that his mother was incarcerated and murdered by his father…  “Oh! I would not tell you” the rest “for the world!  Are you not wild to know?” Northanger Abbey, Chapter VI.

Amanda Grange continues to build a dedicated fan base with her warm, witty and informative diaries of Jane Austen’s male heroes (and even a villain) since her first Mr. Darcy’s Diary in 2007 to Mr. Wickham’s Dairy last April. I was too anxious to wait for the US release in December 2011 for Henry Tilney’s Diary so I impatiently paid a small fortune last May for the shipping and hardback copy published through Robert Hale in the UK. I recall that from the time UPS delivered the book until I finished it sometime in the wee hours of the morn, I was thoroughly engaged. I believe my money and my time, well spent; surely one of her best diaries to date! Austen fans may declare Mr. Darcy as their favorite, I dare say, Mr. Tilney improves on acquaintance. Even if you are not as familiar with Northanger Abbey as other Austen works, you will still find the tendency of Henry Tilney’s Diary to be altogether recommendable.  A must for your reading list.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Henry Tilney’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange
Berkley Trade (2011)
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-0425243923

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Guest Blogger Amanda Grange Chats about Henry Tilney’s Diary

Austen-esque author Amanda Grange kicks off our guests bloggers during ‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ event as she joins us today to chat about a very important topic; possibly the most important topic to many – Henry Tilney – who is the protagonist of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and the hero of her next novel Henry Tilney’s Diary. This highly anticipated novel will complete her Austen hero’s series that started with Mr. Darcy’s Diary in 2005, unless she changes her mind and gives Sense and Sensibility‘s co-hero Edward Ferrars his due. Hint ;) Hint ;)

Amanda Grange on Henry Tilney’s Diary

I’m very pleased to be invited to Austenprose during the Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey event because at the moment Northanger Abbey is much in my mind. I’m writing Henry Tilney’s Diary which is, of course, a retelling of Northanger Abbey from Henry’s point of view. Those people who have read my other diaries –  Mr Darcy’s Diary, Mr Knightley’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, Edmund Bertram’s Diary, Colonel Brandon’s Diary – will know that I like to stick close to the original novels but present them from a new viewpoint, filling out the back stories and adding what I hope are new insights along the way. 

I knew before I started it that Henry Tilney’s Diary would be the most complex diary to write because Northanger Abbey is, arguably, Austen’s most complex novel. Not only does it have Austen’s hallmarks of social satire, keen observation, brilliant characterisation, etc, it also has her wittiest hero, and on top of that it parodies the Gothic novel. I knew I would have to try and capture all these element in the diary. 

Those who have been following my progress on Historical Romance UK will know that I decided to use some passages from The Mysteries of Udolpho in the diary because I wanted to give modern readers a taste of the kind of Gothic novels that were popular in Austen’s day. Some readers are already familiar with Udolpho, of course – including readers of Austenprose! – but others have never read it, and I didn’t want them to miss out on the unique flavour of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Gothics. 

Having decided to include some passages from Udolpho, I then had to come up with a way of working it into the diary. The solution to this problem came in Chapter 14 of Northanger Abbey

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days – my hair standing on end the whole time.” (said Henry)

“Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage Walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it.”  

I knew at once that I would include this incident in the diary. It is such a revealing incident that I would probably have included it anyway, because it shows Henry at his most human and charming whilst also showing his good relationship with Eleanor. But it lends itself perfectly to my desire to include extracts from Udolpho

I decided that I would then make the incident work even harder for its place in the diary, because I would use it, not only to show Henry and Eleanor’s characters, their good relationship, and the prose of Mrs Radcliffe, I would also use it as a bonding experience with Eleanor’s suitor. 

Eleanor’s suitor is one of the elements of the backstory I am going to flesh out. He isn’t mentioned until the end of the book, but in fact she has known him for a long time. As she loves Gothic novels I thought it likely that he would love them as well. My picture of him was hazy at first and I had to think more carefully about the things I knew so that I could develop him as a real person. He had no money –  so where could Eleanor have met him? I decided she would meet him at the Abbey, because it’s such an integral part of the book. But what would he be doing there? 

There are a lot of ways I could have done it, but this is what happened when I started to write: 

Friday 

It was late. My father was holding forth in the drawing-room; Frederick’s friends were carousing in the billiard room; and so Eleanor and I took refuge in the library. We had just begun to talk when there was an embarrassed cough and Mr Thomas Stannyard stepped out from behind one of the bookcases. 

It was an awkward moment. He had evidently been in the library when we arrived and he had unwittingly overheard our conversation. But instead of laughing and blustering and making some ribald remark, as befitted one of Frederick’s friends, he blushed and fingered his collar and muttered his apologies, adding that he had come into the library to look for a book. 

This so astounded Eleanor and I that we looked at each other and then turned our eyes back towards him to discover that he was indeed holding a book. 

‘The antics in the billiard-room are not to your taste?’ hazarded my sister.

‘No, I am afraid not,’ he said apologetically.

‘What book have you found?’ I asked.

He looked embarrassed and muttered something under his breath.

The Mysteries of Udolpho!’ exclaimed Eleanor.

‘I have a partiality for Gothic novels,’ he admitted shamefacedly.

‘But this is capital,’ I said. ‘My sister and I like nothing better. Which ones have you read?’

Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, and Necromancer of the Black Forest,’ he said, then added, ‘I must not intrude any longer.’

‘It is no intrusion,’ I assured him.

‘Will you not join us?’ asked Eleanor.

‘If you are sure . . . ‘ he said.

‘We are. Are we not, Henry?’

‘Yes, indeed.’

He took a seat.

‘Forgive me for saying so, but you do not seem like one of my brother’s friends,’ said Eleanor.

‘I . . . uh . . . think it would be more accurate to say that . . . well, to put it frankly . . . that is to say . . . he owes me money.’ 

This is just a rough draft. It might easily change between now and publication, but this is how the characters are developing at the moment. This will then lead into some scenes where the three of them read a Gothic novel together. As there is no mention of Eleanor’s suitor when Henry talks about reading Udolpho in Chapter 14, I will probably have them read one of the other novels. I dare say they will be out walking but then have to hurry inside because of a thunderstorm. With the thunder rolling and the lightning flashing outside, they will read some of the more outrageous passages from one or other of the ‘horrid novels,’ replete with dungeons, chains and strange moaning. 

I might, too, have Henry come upon Catherine and Eleanor reading a horrid novel, so that I can include extracts from yet another ‘horrid novel’, but as I haven’t got to the later part of the diary, and I am at the moment writing the bits that occur before Northanger Abbey begins, that is a decision I won’t take until much later in the year. 

I hope fans of Northanger Abbey will enjoy Henry Tilney’s Diary! 
 
Best wishes,

Mandy

Thanks Amanda for giving us a sneak peek at your next novel Henry Tilney’s Diary which will hopefully be in book stores by late 2009. I am looking forward to the entrance of da man himself, Henry Tilney, and all the Gothic trappings replete with dungeons, chains and strange moaning!

Upcoming event posts
Day 04 – Oct 7             Group Read NA Chapters 4-7
Day 05 – Oct 8             Guest Blog – Diana Birchall
Day 06 – Oct 9             Group Read NA Chapters 8-10
Day 07 – Oct 13           Guest Blog Margaret C. Sullivan

Get Ready to Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey Starting October 1st

 

A Great Austen Novel Event Begins Next Wednesday!

Hold on to your bonnets Janeites and Gothic literature fans, cuz Austenprose will be hosting another Austen novel event during the month of October, 2008 in honour of Jane Austen’s Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. Please join the 31 day blog event and ‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ including a group read and discussion of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey , book and movie reviews, guest bloggers, and tons of free giveaways! 

Here is a partial schedule of the upcoming fun 

Group Read 

OCTOBER 2:  Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen group read begins with chapters 1-3. 

The complete reading schedule can be found here 

Guest Bloggers 

OCTOBER 6: Amanda Grange, author of Mr. Darcy’s Diary and the four other retellings of Jane Austen’s novels from the hero’s perspective is currently writing the last novel in the series, Henry Tilney’s Diary. Read up on all the scoop on the progress on her writing about hero Henry Tilney, inarguably Austen’s most charming and daring wit! Amanda will share her insights on the current novel and include some highlights on scenes and dialogue in this preview of her fabulous new novel! 

OCTOBER 13: Margaret C. Sullivan, author of The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to her World, Editrix of AustenBlog, Tilneys and Trap-doors and Molland’s web sites will be discussing her admittedly partial, and totally prejudiced preference for Northanger Abbey’s hero Henry Tilney, and what makes him Jane Austen’s most dashing and quotable hunk. 

OCTOBER 15: Kali Pappas, Austen fashion authority, web designer and web mistress of The Emma Adaptations Pages will be chatting with us about her favorite subject, fashion, in the two movie adaptations of Northanger Abbey. Find out what this Austenista has to say about all the elegant ball gowns and wild feathered bonnets in these two movie adaptations. 

OCTOBER 20: James D. Jenkins, Gothic fiction authority and publisher of Valancourt Books will be discussing the history of Gothic fiction, renown authors of the genre and the seven novels included in the famous Northanger Cannon that character Isabella Thorpe recommends to heroine Catherine Morland in the novel Northanger Abbey, and the two books that they read, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian. Find out for yourself if they are all as horrid as Isabella Thorpe claims them to be! 

OCTOBER 27: Writer Trina Robbins, and illustrator Anne Timmons of Graphic Classics Volume 14: Gothic Classics, the graphic novel version of Northanger Abbey and The Mysteries of Udolpho will be talking about their experience adapting and illustrating Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey. Learn all about this wonderful media for young adults and big adults too! 

Giveaways 

Tons of fun stuff! Northanger Abbey editions in print by publishers Barnes & Noble, Penguin, Norton Critical, Broadview, and Oxford University Press, Naxos Audio Books version of Northanger Abbey, Movies, Jane Austen ephemera and gifts, and so much more! 

Don’t miss out on all the great reading, discussion

and fun giveaways, starting October 1st.

 Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey! You won’t regret it!