Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Book Details
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Paperback, 288 Pages
2003, Penguin Classics
ISBN: 0141439793

Jane Austen's first novel, Northanger Abbey, published posthumously in 1818, tells the story of Catherine Morland and her dangerously sweet nature, innocence, and sometime self-delusion. Though Austen's fallible heroine is repeatedly drawn into scrapes while vacationing at Bath and during her subsequent visit to Northanger Abbey, Catherine eventually triumphs, blossoming into a discerning woman who learns truths about love, life, and the heady power of literature. The satirical Northanger Abbey pokes fun at the Gothic novel while earnestly emphasizing caution to the female sex.

Northanger Abbey is a classic, but is able to be read with an ease usually associated with light, modern novels. It must be remembered that Northanger Abbey is a parody which can be more difficult that it sounds. Reading Northanger Abbey from a modern viewpoint and taking the action and dialogue seriously can quickly annoy the reader.

Catherine isn't very worldly and has learned of the world through the books she has read. When she goes on a trip with her neighbors, she meets Tilney and falls in love instantly. Much goes on in the love lives of all of the younger people in the books, but most obvious is Catherine's utter innocent and naivety. More often than not, her doe-eyed charm is grating rather than endearing.

Northanger Abbey is best when the characters discuss novels and reading. A lot of debate is put forth as to the worth of fiction and this discussion will strike a chord with most book lovers. Looking at it in a more specific light, this book delves a lot into the concept of the Gothic novel and readers may find themselves completely lost if they have no prior knowledge on the subject. The bulk of the humor stemming the parody aspect of the book is a take on this Gothic theme, so those who don't know the basics will miss this as well.

The romance in Northanger Abbey can't be taken seriously, because taken at face value the love story is unconvincing, bordering on ridiculous. While Northanger Abbey feels like a casual read, a lot has to be brought to the novel in order to fully appreciate and enjoy it. While Northanger Abbey provides decent entertainment, those looking for a good Austen novel would fair better with Emma or Pride and Prejudice.



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  2. I thought Northanger Abbey was ok, not my favorite Austen writing but it does show her brilliant writing skills. I think your review is dead-on that you have to take it at face-value and also remember when it was written :) Great Review as always!

  3. Also not my favorite Jane Austen - isn't the love story really just beyond ridiculous?!?

  4. I think I started this book... ah, I can't remember. That probably says a lot about the book, actually! Nice review.

  5. I watched the Masterpiece Theater movie of Northanger Abbey yesterday. I enjoyed it and thought it captures Catherine very well. It helped me understand Henry Tilney better or at least the movie version of Henry made more sense to me than Henry in the novel did.

  6. @Stuck Between The Pages - Thanks!

    @Felicia - It's so hard to remember sometimes - especially since Austen doesn't always read like a classic. When I feel like I'm reading a modern book, I tend to expect modern actions from the characters.

    @brizmus - I just did not get it. Why Tilney? Just because he was there and didn't suck as much as Thorpe? Why Catherine? Just because your dad said no? Those are both stupendous reasons to marry.

    @Emidy - That it does. If you can't remember if you even read a book, it probably didn't impress you much.

    @Chelle - I need to watch a movie adaptation of this. I think maybe seeing it will make it more understandable than reading it. At least that's the theory I'm running with at the moment.