Tracy, please make this poll "sticky" so that everyone gets a chance to see it. Also, you can unstick the discussion thread. Thanks, luv.
Here are this month's selected titles. All 3 of these books are similar in that they are parodies of previous works, or simply reminiscent of prior authors. Following is the book title and a small description, in no particular order. The poll will run for 10 days.
by Jane Austen
Though Northanger Abbey is one of Jane Austen's earliest novels, it was not published until after her death--well after she'd established her reputation with works such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. Of all her novels, this one is the most explicitly literary in that it is primarily concerned with books and with readers. In it, Austen skewers the novelistic excesses of her day made popular in such 18th-century Gothic potboilers as Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers all figure into Northanger Abbey, but with a decidedly satirical twist. Consider Austen's introduction of her heroine: we are told on the very first page that "no one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine." The author goes on to explain that Miss Morland's father is a clergyman with "a considerable independence, besides two good livings--and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters." Furthermore, her mother does not die giving birth to her, and Catherine herself, far from engaging in "the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush" vastly prefers playing cricket with her brothers to any girlish pastimes.
Catherine grows up to be a passably pretty girl and is invited to spend a few weeks in Bath with a family friend. While there she meets Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor, who invite her to visit their family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Austen amuses herself and us as Catherine, a great reader of Gothic romances, allows her imagination to run wild, finding dreadful portents in the most wonderfully prosaic events. But Austen is after something more than mere parody; she uses her rapier wit to mock not only the essential silliness of "horrid" novels, but to expose the even more horrid workings of polite society, for nothing Catherine imagines could possibly rival the hypocrisy she experiences at the hands of her supposed friends. In many respects Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen's novels, yet at its core is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage, 19th-century British style.
Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith
by Gina B. Nahai
There is an unwritten rule that any book featuring such character names as Roxanna the Angel, Miriam the Moon, and Alexandra the Cat must also contain a great deal of magical realism; Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith lives up to expectations. In addition to Roxanna's winged departure from her home and family, there are episodes involving illuminated sunflowers, dreams of flight that result in beds of white feathers, and Roxanna's final illness, a "mysterious fluid that ... started to fill her body like a poisonous presence, that oozed out of the corner of her eyes, swelled her arms and legs till she had no more use of them and turned her once-magical voice into a gurgling whisper." Besides the miraculous, this novel has undeniable sweep, beginning in Tehran, touching down in Turkey, and ending up in Los Angeles many years later with hair-raising adventures punctuating each change of address. Gina B. Nahai has crafted a lyrical novel reminiscent of the work of Isabelle Allende. Readers with a taste for the fantastic will enjoy this tale.
Cold Comfort Farm
by Stella Gibbons
Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, Cold Comfort Farm is a witty, irreverent parody of the works of Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence. Flora Poste, left an orphan at the end of her "expensive, athletic, and prolonged" education, sets off for her relatives at Cold Comfort Farm, despite dire warnings of doom and damnation. Once there she encounters Seth, full of rampant sexuality; Elfine, who flits in and out in a cloak that is decidedly the wrong color; Meriam, the hired girl who gets pregnant every year when the "sukebind is in bloom;" and Aunt Ada Doom, the aging, reclusive matriarch who once "saw something nasty in the woodshed." Flora decides to "tidy up life at Cold Comfort Farm." Mocking Hardy's and Lawrence's melodrama, sensuality, and use of symbolism, Stella Gibbons has Flora, with her no-nonsense attitude, give Elfine a good haircut, teach Meriam some elementary lessons in birth control and send various morose, rural relatives off to happier fates. Cold Comfort Farm is funny even without a background in Hardy or Lawrence, but for those readers who have been frustrated attempting to find exactly where in Tess of the D'Urbervilles Tess is "seduced," or who have plowed through the intensity of Sons and Lovers, Cold Comfort Farm is sweet, hilarious revenge.