Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
On the Shelves: Classics, Romance, Fiction
“A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.
The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.
Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.” (Goodreads 2013)
Northanger Abbey is Miss Austen’s first novel, and as such- as many people rightly comment on- it is full of flaws. But I feel that a lot of people don’t quite give it the credit it is due, which is why I’ve chosen it as my first Austen book to get a review, rather than the ever popular Pride and Prejudice (which, yes, I do love), or Emma (an Austen I love…not so much). No, for some reason, Northanger Abbey appears to be a bit of a black sheep where Austen lovers are concerned. But do you know what? It is my favourite Austen.
I first read Northanger Abbey in 2012, I seem to get a Jane Austen kick every summer when the days seem lazy and slow, and I picked it up. I spent almost every page laughing, not at the book as some readers seem to have, but with the book. Austen’s first novel is filled with page upon page of satire and sarcasm about the ridiculous society and politics of the time. I love Catherine’s wild imagination and Henry Tilney’s sarcasm, wit and strange fondness for muslin. How many times have you longed for an adventure to a strange place and when you get there, it actually falls a little bit flat and turns out to be boring as hell? That’s exactly what happens to Catherine Morland and it’s hilarious to see this actually reflected in a book where most stories will grant that epic adventure the heroine dreams of. I just feel like Northanger Abbey is vastly under appreciated when it comes to claiming how Austen was one of the wittiest critiques of her society, since the novel itself is basically overflowing with satirical commentary.
I will always recommend this to anyone who wants to try reading Austen or any “Classic” literature, along with Jane Eyre…but that is a review for another day.