Friday, July 23, 2010

Northanger Abbey Readalong: Chapters 1-9 #NARead

Readalong: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Participant list and schedule can be found on this post.

I read chapters 1 through 9 of Northanger Abbey and my first thought was "Wow, this doesn't read like a classic." Which, to me, is a good thing. I took some notes for each chapter, which I'll share below. There won't be any spoilers beyond chapter 9, as I purposely didn't read ahead.

Chapter 1
We meet Catherine Morland and learn her background. As a child, she was a tomboy, plain looking and not very bright (or perhaps just bored.) She liked causing trouble and rebelling against the norm which sounds a lot like most modern kids.

At 15, she grew to be more feminine in both her looks and her actions. It seems as though she tried harder to become educated and conformed in order to belong.

At 17, she has never found a crush-worthy guy. She speaks a lot of heroines and their adventures. I begin to believe that perhaps she takes the books she reads a bit too seriously.

Chapter 2
Catherine seems naive to me, or at least she has lived a very sheltered life (beyond that of her peers.)

Her father allows access to unlimited amounts of money. She leaves without promising to write to her sister. Her mother worries about the trip, which seems to be the only normal thing going on in her family dynamics.

Mrs. Allen is introduced. She is described as being kind of catty. I'm don't know why that's important, but it seems to be foreshadowing.

Catherine and Mrs. Allen attend a ball. Mrs. Allen appears to be taking pleasure in Catherine's discomfort, but my view of this may be colored by the earlier description of Mrs. Allen.

Chapter 3
We meet Mr. Tilney. He seems to be flirting with Catherine. Also, it's mentioned that he is a clergyman.

Chapter 4
We meet Mrs. Thorpe and her daughters. Her son is friends with Catherine's brother.

A sudden deep friendship develops between Catherine and Mrs. Thorpe's oldest daughter Isabella.

Chapter 5
Catherine seems to be overly concerned about seeing Mr. Tilney again.

Catherine continues her friendship with Isabella.

A long portion of this chapter focus on reading novels and how women should be embarrassed to read fiction.

Chapter 6
Catherine and Isabella talk about men and about the books they read.

Chapter 7
Catherine and Isabella's brother's arrive.

John Thorpe, Isabella's brother, is obnoxious.

The rest of the chapter consists of everyone praising each other about a variety of things.

Catherine once again feels shame for reading.

Chapter 8
John Thorpe ditches Catherine at a party, so she is stuck with Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Allen. She feels completely humiliated.

Mr. Tilney appears with a woman assumed to be his sister.

Catherine must turn down a dance with Mr. Tilney because of Mr. Thorpe.

Catherine hangs out with Tilney's sister and seems to interact with her solely as a means to Tilney.

Chapter 9
Catherine is swept off on a carriage ride with Isabella, John Thorpe and her brother James.

John continues to be obnoxious and conceited.

Isabella ignores Catherine for most of the day in order to pay attention to James.

While with the others, Catherine misses her opportunity to see Mr. Tilney and his sister.

My overall thoughts so far
Northanger Abbey is easier to read than I had expected. It's lacks the over-description and fancily phrases that usually turn me off to older books. And of course, as a book lover, I thoroughly enjoy all the book talk.

Most of the women seem kind of awful. Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe spend time together, not because they like each other, but because they don't have anyone else to talk to. Isabella seems to be using Catherine as a means to James, just as Catherine appears to want to do with Tilney's sister. True friendship is definitely not a theme here.

The men aren't much better. Mr. Allen escapes as often as possible. John Thorpe is, well, atrocious and I hope he gets run over by a carriage. I can't seem to get a handle on Mr. Tilney and what his purpose is.

Catherine needs to just stop it. Seriously. She meets some guy once, he sort of flirts with her and now she's obsessed with him? So obsessed that she's willing to use his sister to get to him, just as Isabella is doing to her? But why? None of these men have done anything of remote interest since they've arrived.

To sum up: I am enjoying Northanger Abbey and reveling in hating most of the characters. I would love to see someone (anyone, really) become the victim of manslaughter via carriage.

More Week 1 Posts
Chelle's post @ The Prairie Library
Vicki's post @ The Wolf's Den
Cat's post @ Tell Me a Story
Booksnob's post @ Book Snob

Discuss your thoughts, opinions, questions, etc in the comments. If you've written your own post, leave the link and I'll add it to this post.


  1. "Manslaughter via carriage" - ha! I've only made it up to chapter 7 so far, but I'll try to catch up over the weekend. I do agree that it doesn't read like a classic.

    Isabella is really annoying me so far!

  2. I posted a bit about N.A in my Hop post:

    I'm loving all the book talk, too!

  3. @Super - Right? Isabella is so clearly not Catherine's friend, and Catherine is just too nice to see it. She and her brother both annoy me.

    @Chelle - Added your link!

  4. +JMJ+

    I know there's a schedule and everything, but I've already finished the book! =P There are so many things I want to say in response to the points you bring up here, but I can't say them yet because they still count as spoilers. =(

    But I think it's all right to say this much: I believe that Catherine's utter averageness was deliberate on Austen's part. Northanger Abbey is a novel about novels--specifically the novels of her own day, of course--and Catherine is totally not what an experienced novel reader would expect of a heroine (as Austen herself bends over backwards to point out).

    It would be, I guess, a little like a modern reader cracking open what promises to be a Gossip Girl type read and finding a heroine from a working class family--or starting a Vampire Romance and finding a slightly pudgy hero with thick glasses and braces on his fangs. =P

  5. I am reading along---though quietly in the background. This is one that I have never read so it is fun to watch all your discussions :)

  6. Just finished my post:

    Manslaughter by carriage would certainly liven things up a bit! Off to Twitter!

  7. I'm surprised at how easy it is to read too. I didn't go any further than Chap 9 which was the perfect place to end. Really enjoying it and looking forward to next installment.
    Love the carriage manslaughter - that John is surely the most revolting character.

    My post is here:

  8. Driveby carriage manslaughter lol! I'm seeing Thorpe's head being lopped off as Catherine the Great races by... I wonder what Jane would think of this.

  9. @Enbrethiliel - I totally see what you're saying. I just thought Catherine might be a little delusional. It seems like she doesn't want to be like a heroine in a novel (a goal I would be able to grasp) but that she actually believes that she's destined to be a heroine. I didn't see anything in her that would make her stand out as heroine material.

    @Felicia - Feel free to chime in with any thoughts!

    @Vicki - Adding it now.

    @Cat - Adding yours as well.

    @Chelle - I actually find myself wondering that every now and then - What Would Jane Austen Think? Would she be surprised that we still read her books? That we share and decipher them together? That they've spawned so many sequels? Would she be appalled by the mash-ups? Would she love that they brings new readers to her works?

  10. +JMJ+

    I sometimes wonder what Jane would make of all this, too. =)

  11. I agree John Thorpe and Isabelle are annoying twits and deserve to be hit by an out of control carriage. I just got back in town and posted my update on the first nine chapters. You can view it on my blog at

  12. @Enbrethiliel - I think she may have had to write something making fun of it :)

    @Booksnob - Added it!