Northanger Abbey (Barnes & Noble Classics)

by Jane Austen

Hardcover, 2005



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. This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the first edition of 1818. "From the Trade Paperback edition."

Library's rating


½ (4540 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ncgraham
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."

If one were to take this sentence (made by Northanger Abbey's hero Henry Tilney) and replace the word "good" with its authoress' name, the statement would not become any less true. I should make
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myself clear: I am not saying that those who find Austen not to their personal taste are intellectually inferior to we fans, but I am disturbed by the popular assumptions that her novels are either lightweight precursors of our contemporary chick-lit, or else that they are heavy, outdated classics that have nothing to say to people or our age. Actually, I find her work consistently offers lasting lessons and insights for the average lady or gentleman—and isn't that the very definition of a classic?

Northanger Abbey is one of her earliest and (in my mind at least) roughest, yet it too has much to offer, including an unconventional hero and heroine, bucket-loads of sly humor, and much to say on reading in general and the Gothic novel in particular. It opens on the modest home life of Catherine Morland, who, at eighteen years old, is showing spirit and potential after a very inauspicious childhood. Her neighbors the Allens invite her to accompany them to Bath, and there she experiences all the delights of her first season in the city. In Bath, she falls in with two different sets of people. First there are the Thorpes; college friends of her brother's, they are poor, outwardly cheerful and attractive, but really quite vulgar and self-serving. And then there are the Tilneys, a mixed lot; two of the children become fast friends with Catherine, but there seems to be something depressing about their father's presence to them, and Catherine, her mind full of Gothic horrors, is sure there is something mysterious secret lingering in their home of Northanger Abbey....

Austen tells as at the outset that "no one who ever had seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine" and repeatedly says throughout that she is "in training to be an heroine." Certainly she belongs to neither of the major categories of leading ladies we see in Austen's fiction, having neither Elizabeth Bennett's sharp wit nor Fanny Price's retiring steadfastness. And in terms of intelligence, she may be inferior to all of them—a classmate of mine summed her character up as "ding-y." Yet she has a good heart, repents when she does wrong, and is a good judge of character as long as she remains in touch with reality. I do not adore her as a literary character, but I do not think she pulls the book down either. And in certain ways she is a breath of fresh air.

Henry Tilney, on the other hand, I find one of the most attractive and memorable of Austen's men. If Catherine is her dullest heroine, Henry is by far her wittiest hero. What conversations he and Elizabeth Bennett would have had if they ever met! He constantly pokes fun at everyone and everything around him, but he does so in such a way that you know that, despite appearances, he dearly loves most of the people he teases. Some critics have judged his treatment of Catherine misogynistic and tyrannical, and predict that their marriage will be a virtual recap of General and Mrs. Tilney's, which I find absolutely ridiculous. This is yet more proof that critics have no sense of humor.

Of course, Henry and Catherine are not the only interesting personalities in this story. Several of the supporting characters stand out in my mind, perhaps none more so than Catherine's avowed friend and her brother's would-be fiancee, the ridiculous and manipulative Isabella Thorpe. Austen often included vulgar females in her novels to set off the virtues of her heroines (see Mrs. Elton in Emma and the fascinating Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park among others), but never did she allow one of them to have such influence over the star of the story as Isabella has over Catherine. And rarely was her skill at characterizing through dialogue so well used. None of Isabella's speeches could be confused with that of any other Austen character: her vocabulary is completely distinctive.

Austen achieves a similar feat with General Tilney, who is outwardly all gentility and decorum, but who is in reality only after Catherine's supposed fortune. He is a villain through and through, something that Catherine suspects early on, although his crime is quite different from the one she pins on him. In fact, the more I think about it, this novel is very much about the relationship between appearances and reality. All of the evil characters (General Tilney, the Thorpes) put on fronts, whereas the people with whom we most sympathisize, such as Catherine, Henry, and his sister Eleanor, are sincere from the start. Eleanor is another of my favorite characters, sweet and reserved, never thinking of herself. She does have one secret, but she does not harbor it out of any sort of deceit, and her character is consistent throughout the novel.

I have not yet spoken about the most famous—or perhaps infamous—aspect of Northanger Abbey: its satirical send-up of the wildly popular Gothic novel genre, especially Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. Some would say that you cannot fully enjoy Northanger without a thorough knowledge of Radcliffe, and I have no doubt that it enriches the reading experience, but the satire and humor of it all was evident to me without any real acquaintance with the books Catherine and Isabella were reading. Some of the passages dealing with this theme are simply hilarious; I am thinking particularly of Henry's narration upon the approach to Northanger Abbey, in which he describes what Catherine may find there, making use of all the cliches and motifs of the standard Gothic thriller. Given that Catherine's fascination with these books leads her into making a great error near the climax of the novel might lead one to believe that Austen was fundamentally critical of the genre, yet she was undoubtedly conversant with all aspects of it, and both internal and external evidence suggest she enjoyed the works of Radcliffe and her ilk. I think of her attitude throughout Northanger primarily as that of a loving older sister, who appreciates her siblings' imagination while still seeing their flaws.

And, of course, she is a great proponent of the novel in general. Book I of Northanger Abbey includes her famous "Defense of the Novel," in which she censures other lady novelists for having their heroines make fun of the very genre they are writing in. There's really not much more I can say about this passage: you simply must read it for yourself.

Normally I do not include information about specific editions in my reviews of literary works, but I simply must take this moment to say that Barnes & Noble Classics did a hideous job in this instance. The introduction and notes weren't bad, I suppose, and there is a good outline of The Mysteries of Udolpho included, but the footnotes? Awful. Just awful. I suppose some modern readers who are not conversant with the time period could benefit from learning what a "full season" is, but I really and truly hope everyone knew that "Oxford" is a university in Britain. For the love of criminy....

Perhaps because Northanger is considered one of Austen's lesser efforts, it has inspired the fewest number of movie adaptations out of all six of her major novels. I have not seen the BBC's infamous 1986 adaptation, but it sounds absolutely abysmal. I am told it totally misses the point and humor of Austen's story, turning it into a sappy Gothic romance, instead of a satire on the same. The clips I've seen reveal a far too serious ambiance, fluffy 80s hair, and a musical score that could only have come from that endearingly bizarre decade. The latest ITV film has its good qualities—including two perfectly-cast leads in Felicity Jones and J. J. Field, an expanded storyline for Eleanor, and a brilliant performance from the up-and-coming Carey Mulligan as Isabella—but the script by Andrew Davies includes its fair share of unnecessary invention as well. I can enjoy the film as a decent adaptation of the novel, but I absolutely cannot approve some of the added innuendo, the most notable of which is a long quote from M. G. Lewis' near-pornographic The Monk. It is no surprise when we learn that Austen's John Thorpe enjoyed this book, but Catherine Morland would never go within ten feet of it!

Northanger Abbey is a unique and charming fixture in Jane Austen's bibliography, although I did not enjoy it quite as much upon rereading as I did the first time around, and I would not suggest it as a starting point for Austen newbies. For gentlemen and ladies who have already had enjoyment from her other books, it is highly recommended: the novelty of it alone makes it worth a look.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I've been reading a lot of genre fiction from a list of recommended works, and what I've constantly been struck with is how fast they date--anything pre-mid 1970s in particular. It impressed upon me that what separates classics and why they endure is that in contrast on reading it you're struck
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with its applicability and resonance with today--and that's very much the case with Northanger Abbey.

The book is notably a send-up of the popular genre fiction of its day--the Gothic novels by writers we don't generally read these days from Matthew Lewis' The Monk to Frances Burney's Camilla and Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. I've read only the lurid (and cheesy and quite fun) The Monk of the works alluded to in Austen's novel, but I didn't feel lost. When Henry Tilney plays off the gothic works in telling a story to Catherine Morland and later Catherine's imagination runs wild in the ancient manse of Northanger Abbey, I get the jokes because we have our own successors to the Gothic tradition in slasher movies, thrillers, horror and "romantic suspense." No doubt a contemporary Catherine Morland, Austen's heroine, would be a huge fan of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

Moreover, the characterizations still feel real and are often funny. I was particularly taken with a passage where John Thorpe, a puffed up idiot, boasts to Catherine of his horses and carriages. Change all that to automobiles--and well, one is struck the male of the species hasn't changed much in two centuries.

Catherine herself is Austen's youngest heroine, only seventeen during the course of the novel. Unsophisticated, naive, head full of lurid novels and away for the first time in a city and for the first time having to make sense of male attentions. Given her flights of fancy, one might be tempted to count her as a featherbrain, but somehow she escapes that. She's a rather lovable combination of tomboy and bookworm. Her romantic interest, Henry Tilney, is among the most winning of Austen heroes--playful and witty, he's very appealing.

And the book itself doesn't take itself too seriously. Naive and unsophisticated Catherine might be, the narrator isn't, and the prose is filled with wit, irony and early nineteenth century snark--but rather good humored snark.

No, Northanger Abbey isn't in my estimation to be ranked with Austen's mature masterpieces such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma or Persausion (which is why I docked it half a star) but if I were ranking it beside so much published these days, it would win full marks. The story is enormous fun.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
How can one not enjoy a Gothic whose first page tells us that the father was "not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters" and that the mother "instead of dying in bringing [Catherine] into the world, as anybody might expect...lived on"?

As a parody, I found it a little more overtly funny
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than Austen's other novels and a little lighter in weight. The social conflicts and characters are typical Austen inventions, though General Tilney rather surprised me since it's not usual that someone changes his stripes midway through one of the stories, but fans of her work will find familiar ground. It is neither my most nor least favorite of Austen's stories, but thoroughly enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member MickyFine
Catherine Morland is generally naive and open-hearted, as befits a seventeen year old girl, but she is also an avid reader of Gothic novels. When the opportunity arises for her to travel to Bath with the Allens, she is ecstatic at the prospect of expanding her horizons. In Bath she makes various
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acquaintances including Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor. When she is fortunate enough to receive an invitation to visit their home, Northanger Abbey, she is overwhelmed by the potential adventures she might have in such a Gothic abode. The realities however, are far different than she expected.

Although published posthumously, Northanger Abbey was the first of Austen's completed novels and thus the tone is significantly different from her other works. The presence of the author is felt much more with much of her commentary made firmly with tongue in cheek. At the same time, humour is evident throughout, as to be expected in a satire. On this current re-read, I chuckled most over the following exchange between Henry and Catherine:

"As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars."
"And what are they?"
"A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar."

While Austen never hesitates to poke fun at Gothic novels, educational materials, and sentimental novels, she also makes rather astute observations at the same time. I was particularly struck by the motif of characters saying one thing and while having a completely different meaning. Very few of the characters are immune to this behaviour, with Catherine and Eleanor being the two major characters to escape this flaw. A delightful satire of the novels of the time; a commentary on literature, education, and the nature of women; and a romance as only Austen can craft it. Delightful as ever.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
'The person who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid.'

I would have to agree with Henry Tilney! 'Northanger Abbey', Austen's first novel, contains many of the stock characters and situations of her later works - the 'Mrs Jennings' type chaperone, the Maria Bertram/Lucy Steele
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avaricious flirt - but is also a heavy-handed critique of the gothic romances which were popular in Austen's time. I was almost put off by Austen's constant presence in the narrative, particularly by her defence of reading and writing novels, but as the novel is fairly brief, I persevered - and was rewarded with a witty, absorbing adventure and an impulsive yet naive heroine!

Catherine Morland is probably the most inexperienced and socially inept of all Austen's heroines, because whereas Emma Woodhouse doesn't want to see, Catherine is simply blind to the intentions of others and the implications of her actions. Her naivete is endearing, however, and only occasionally frustrating! John Thorpe's one-sided interview with her is a comic gem! She lives in a world created by novelists such as Mrs Radcliffe, whom Austen is quick to defend whilst simultaneously warning of the consequences.

On a visit to Bath with Mr and Mrs Allen, Catherine makes a friend of flighty and daring Isabella Thorpe and also charms Isabella's dandified brother, John. Isabella latches herself onto Catherine's brother James, and John assumes that Catherine will be an easy and profitable match. In contrast to the conniving Thorpes, an introduction to wealthy and wordy Henry Tilney supplies Austen's non-heroine with her hero, and Catherine is smitten. When Eleanor Tilney, Henry's Georgiana-esque sister, invites her to stay with them at the family estate, Northanger Abbey, imaginative and inquisitive Catherine is in raptures. Another of my favourite scenes is Henry teasing Catherine about her Udolphan fantasies of his home - a real abbey, with secret chambers and 'some awful memorials of an injured and ill-fated nun'!

I absolutely loved this snide parody, once the story was allowed to begin. As much as I appreciate Austen's thoughts on novels, education and vocabulary - the ubiquitous word 'nice' is suitably mocked by Henry Tilney - I have been too much spoiled by her other novels not to expect appealing characters and satisfying stories! Isabella's obnoxious behaviour, Catherine's overactive imagination and the General's curious volte-face at the Abbey soon combined to thoroughly engross me in this deceptively simple tale, and by the end, I found this novel very pleasing indeed!
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
This is my new favorite Jane Austen book. It is poking fun in a gentle way at the Gothic horror/romances of her day. Austen has set the standard for wit, suspense and tension. Though there is little or no action, I could not put this down.

Catherine is a young woman of seventeen who is just
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beginning to experience the world around her. Her naivety of the characters around her seems extreme, but she has been raised in a small village, in a loving home, with only her limited reading of novels to give her wisdom. When she is invited to stay at an ancient Abbey, her heart thrills. Will she be able to bear up under the mystery and suspense? Will the Abbey live up to all she has read? Or will she find real life's twists and turns a more thrilling adventure yet?
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LibraryThing member allureofbooks
I just re-read Northanger Abbey for the first time so that I could review it for Jane in June. I'm so glad I did! I loved it much more this time around then when I read it for the first time several years ago. It is much funnier and more entertaining then I remember it being. The ending is very
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rushed, but then, Austen never got a chance to go back and edit it since it was published after her death. I wonder what she would have changed or fixed if she'd gotten the chance?

Henry Tilney is higher on my list of favorite Austen heroes then I previously thought. He would be the most fun to be around out of all of them, I think. He is very flirty and witty, but he is also a very loyal and kind man. He is very forgiving and understanding toward Catherine, even when she acts like a complete goose around him. Even though I think this is the least romantic plot of all her books, Austen got it right when she created Tilney, no doubt about it.

Catherine Moreland's coming of age is the star of the show here. I will re-read the other Austens when I'm in the mood for a classic romance story. This book I will re-read when I feel the need to laugh at (and be embarassed for) Catherine and her numerous adventures into idiocy and disaster. Bless her heart, she is so innocent and sweet - it really gets her into trouble. Our heroine-in-training is looking for an adventure throughout the story, and when she fails to find one that suits her fancy, she invents one in her head. Bad idea, Catherine. Bad. Idea.

This book is a lot of fun, and I definitely think it is worth a read! I don't know why so many people are down on it. It might not be your run-of-the-mill Austen, but it is still a classic and very much worth your time.
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LibraryThing member xicanti
A young woman with a fondness for novels makes her first trip to Bath, where she encounters friendship, betrayal and love.

This was Jane Austen's earliest completed novel, though it wasn't published until after her death. As a result, her aims are a little different than in her later books. With
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Northanger Abbey, she comments on the popular literature of the late 18th century as she tells a story that works both with and against all the storytelling models that have come before.

The result is an extremely entertaining novel that I believe would appeal most strongly to those who greedily devoured fiction in their youth and were, perhaps, a tad too influenced by what they'd read. I found Catherine Morland a delightful heroine, pleasant to read about and easy to relate to. Austen does some wonderful things with her. She opens the novel by describing just how Catherine differs from the typical heroine of the day; as things progress, we see how Catherine's whole world corresponds to or diverges from the standard gothic structure, and how the main character's knowledge of such things influences the way she views her surroundings. This is smoothly and elegantly done, and in such a way that the reader may recognize the underlying themes without feeling that Austen has ever forced them upon her.

Overall, I found this a wonderful read. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in giving Jane Austen's work a try. Some knowledge of late 18th century gothic literature would be helpful, but it's far from essential.
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LibraryThing member inkdrinker
Northanger Abby is my favorite Austen novel. It’s possible that I feel such affection for it because it was my first Austen novel, but I don’t believe that is the case. I love it because it not only has Austen’s trade mark satire of society and manners, it also contains some of the most
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lighthearted characters of all of her books. Catherine (the main character) is a very silly young lady with a ridiculously over blown imagination and her love of gothic novels fuels her dramatic fantasies. (As I read this book I couldn’t help but think of comparisons between the idea that these gothic novels caused young ladies to have overwrought imaginations and the perception that television is corrupting our youth. It seems the concept of media as corrupting just keeps coming back.)

In the end however, Catherine’s daydreams aren’t all a mistake. She is sought after by a man with less than good intentions (her brother receives the same treatment from a woman) and the man she loves does have what seems a dark secret.

All in all I found this the funniest and most directly enjoyable of all of Austen’s novels. I also consider this one of my all time favorite books.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
I’ve just changed my rating from 3,5 to 4 stars. It’s ridiculous to give only 3,5 to a book I’ve read four times since 2008. Apparently I must like this novel a lot….

This is also second time listening to Juliet Stevenson narration - and what a good job she does. I like so much the young
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heroine - her innocence, charm, her wanting to please everybody and fear of doing anything that will cast shame upon her family, friends and benefactors.

You can easily imagine how Jane Austen must have delighted in this mild satire over young Catherine Mansfields first romance and her passion for gothic novels. The way she is introduced to society in Bath (a town Austen disliked) - it’s the perfect setting for Austen to satirize over the shallow and empty lives of characters who only wants to be seen by others and gossip and spend days shopping and dancing all the time (excemplified in the vain Thorpes family).

Catherine is overwhelmed by the glitter and pomp of Bath but fortunately meet some sensible people in Henry and Eleanor Tilney who can guide her - and eventually take her away from Bath.

Jane Austen wrote this in the beginning of her twenties and although it doesn’t shine as much as her later work, it has risen in my estimation over the last couple of years. And I know I will return to this again. And Juliet Stevenson.

And if you want some “suspense” from Jane Austen this is the novel (although there’s also a bit of that in Mansfield Park).
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LibraryThing member ljldml
This is my favorite Jane Austen book. Not certain why, I just love to read this book. I love a nice rainy day, a quiet house and a cup of tea. I sit and read this book all afternoon.
LibraryThing member seasonsoflove
As a lover of both the gothic genre of literature and Jane Austen, it was inevitable that I would read and enjoy this book. Witty and extremely clever, this book skewers the familiar story of an imaginative young woman who finds herself in a mysterious home where the mistress is dead and her son is
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out of the heroine's league but still highly appealing. This book will have you laughing out loud.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen's first novel. Originally written in 1798, it was sold to a publisher, but for some reason not published. She later revised the novel slightly, and it was published posthumously in 1817. Northanger Abbey was intended as a parody of the Gothic novel, a popular genre
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at the time. The heroine, Catherine Morland, is 17 years old and enamored of the Gothic novel. She is young, naive, and while an avid reader is not sophisticated enough to detect sublety, be it in literature or in the words and actions of others. Like other Austen novels, the plot centers around a few young women and their attempts to form relationships with men that are both loving and profitable. There are, of course, misunderstandings that hinder these relationships, but the ending resolves most of the conflict and neatly ties up the story.

Catherine was a likeable character, but lacked the depth found in Austen's later heroines Elizabeth Bennett, Marianne Dashwood, and Emma Woodhouse. The construction and story were also less complex than her later work; more predictable and somewhat less interesting. I read this book for Kathrin's Classics Challenge, and because I decided some time ago that I wanted to read all of Austen's work. Unfortunately, as much as I love Jane Austen, this is not a work I'd recommend to someone wanting to discover her talents.
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LibraryThing member george.d.ross
There are charming elements to this novel, and it's a gas to read Austen's ironical commentary on the trashy novels of her day. Unfortunately Austen seems to have gotten bored with the story about two thirds of the way in, and resorts to recounting much of the action (even the nominal climax) in
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rushed, half-hearted narrative passages. The plot and the satirical elements are poorly organized, but it's almost worth it when a touch of Austen's wit shines through.

To its credit, though, I believe Northanger Abbey has the distinction of being the only Austen novel wherein the characters marry for love alone, *not* money or property.
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LibraryThing member nd1524
Northanger Abbey is a little different than the previous two Austen novels I’ve read. It is a satire on the Gothic novel. I enjoyed it more that S&S, but it still does not live up to the excellence of P&P. Catherine Morland is a lovable character, but she is no Elizabeth, and Henry Tilney is no
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Darcy. These observations are not however, the sole basis for my opinions. The plot, and the storyline just aren’t as good. The end of the novel is a letdown. Yes, Henry comes and lives happily ever after with Catherine, but I felt an injustice was done to General Tilney. He had been so good to Catherine, and then you find out that it was all for money!? The end just doesn’t feel right. It is rushed and utterly unfulfilling. The ending aside, I really enjoyed NA. The plot flows along nicely, and the false assumptions Catherine derives from her Gothic novels (i.e. General Tilney murdered his wife), provide some comic relief. I enjoyed the first 224 pages out of 236, but the fact that so much happened in the last 12 pages disturbs me. We didn’t even get to read the actual scenes, they were just narrated to us. I just feel like Austen could have done better. No, scratch that. I know Jane Austen could have done better; she showed me that in Pride and Prejudice.
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LibraryThing member millyh
‘Northanger Abbey’ is very different to the other two Jane Austen books I’ve read. Not only is the subject of the book different – it is has a darker, more controversial and shocking side that ‘Emma’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ do not have, whilst at the same time being about a
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younger girl with a much lighter, naïve perspective on things than the other books had- but the style of writing is also quite different. Austen uses a lighter, more ‘fun’ technique of writing, referring to herself as the author of the story throughout the book and often introducing characters as if she was introducing them to a friend. This style of writing – as if you were talking and telling the story to someone instead of just writing it on paper – is often quite a common style these days, but compared to other very formal works of the time, which her other two books are more in tune with, ‘Northanger Abbey’ is very different.

As I mentioned earlier, the book does have a slightly darker, more controversial side to it. Influenced by gothic novels, Catherine conjures up all kinds of awful crimes that General Tilney may have committed, including tales of murder and imprisonment. There is the same themes of young ladies misbehaving that was evident in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ when Lydia runs away with Mr. Whickam – here it is Catherine’s so-called friend Isabella who is shocking everyone with her misjudgement of situations and inability to behave respectfully.

Catherine is a younger and more imperfect character than Austen’s other creations. Elizabeth Bennet and Emma both had flaws, but were both seen to be very intelligent and beautiful. The first chapter covers of ‘Northanger Abbey’ covers Catherine’s childhood as an unsightly young girl, and although she does develop, it always seems that she never really becomes ‘beautiful’, and for this we feel more compassion for her. She is also quite a slow girl – not very able in picking up signs in other’s behaviour and simply lacking in general intelligence and wit.

‘Pride and Prejudice’ still remains my favourite Jane Austen book, but ‘Northanger Abbey’ probably comes in second so far. It is a lovely book that is very easy to enjoy, especially for someone more my age. I still, however, have Jane Austen’s other three published works to read before I can really make a fair comparison.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is not your typical heroine, as our narrator forewarns us. Her father is respectable, her mother is not of a sickly constitution. When Catherine is allowed to go to Bath with family friends, she is excited by the prospect of all the adventures that may befall
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her. But as readers, and Catherine herself, discover - she is not in a Gothic novel.

When I first attempted to read Northanger Abbey in my teens I was, I confess, much like Catherine myself. Much of the banter of characters and narrator was over my head. I didn't remember that there was sarcasm, much less humor, in conveying Catherine's story, and I daresay I must have taken much of it at face value and abandoned the book out of boredom (and the necessity of library due dates). But now a little older, more familiar with literature if not the exact Gothic novels which Jane Austen is skewering, and much more adept at picking up on when the narrator was laughing at our heroine, I found the story a much smoother read. At times, I laughed out loud over Catherine's propensity for viewing events in convoluted ways suggested by her novel reading. On the other hand, I think I would find her likable as a person, given her ability to see the best in people until proven otherwise. Though atypical of Austen's style, I will be recommending this to a friend who would appreciate sarcasm over romance.
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LibraryThing member rosalita
I've had this one lurking about on my eShelf for a long time. The impetus to finally pull it up and read it was provided by one of my student employees who was assigned the book in one of her classes. She was nervous about reading something "so old", and I told her I would read along with her just
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for fun. I was happy when she reported back after reading the first 8 chapters that she liked it and hadn't realized it would be so funny. I was not surprised that it was funny, because Austen has a marvelously sly sense of humor, but I too enjoyed this one. There is perhaps not quite the subtlety of some of her later works but Catherine is a fine "heroine" and Mr. Tinley was divine if somewhat simplistically rendered. I especially enjoyed Austen's spoofing of sentimental/romance novels.
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LibraryThing member thorold
The first time I read Northanger Abbey, aged about 12, was the moment when I saw the point of Jane Austen. I'd already struggled through P&P and Mansfield Park, somehow entirely missing all the lightness and irony in my earnest determination to keep track of who was who. But when I got to
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Northanger Abbey, I suddenly realised that it was possible to get pleasure from reading a classic as well as satisfaction from having read it.

The plot may be rather simple, but the framework is a little more complex than I remembered it: the book is a novel, written by an avowed fan of novels. It's a critique of the clichés of the form, but it also exploits those clichés itself. Most of the way through, the narrator is teasing us by building up expectations and then deflating them, often explicitly pointing out the ways in which the story she has to tell falls short of our expectations of what a novel should be, but ultimately she admits that the ending will be no surprise to "[her] readers, who will see in the tell-tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity."

The narrator's interventions do come over as a little bit too clever sometimes, but there's just about enough in the actual characters to engage our sympathy in the story on its own merits. Henry Tilney struck me as one of the most convincing of Austen's male leads: his first scene at the ball in chapter 3 is very neat, and the wonderful scene in chapter 30 when he comes to Fullerton and neither he nor Mrs Morland can think of a way to keep up the conversation is pure Hugh Grant avant la lettre. Isabella Thorpe, on the other hand, struck me as oddly like a young man out of an Oscar Wilde play in her conversation.

Still most enjoyable the fourth or fifth time you read it, even when you know exactly what is going to happen next.
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LibraryThing member katiekrug
Northanger Abbey is not destined to be my favorite novel of Jane Austen’s, but it seems almost unfair to judge it against the others, as it is so very different. Written well before her better known works but not published until after her death, it is a witty and surprisingly profound commentary
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on the fashionable Gothic novels of the late 18th/early 19th century, as well as on the social mores that credited women with little sense or ambition outside of securing a suitable marriage. The novel is full of Austen’s characteristic wit and wonderfully drawn secondary characters. What stood out for me was the unsympathetic portrayal of Catherine, the heroine, for much of the book. This may very well have been by design – Austen commenting on the empty-headed, silly nature of so many young ladies. I found myself not very invested in Catherine’s story for much of the book and only began to root for her once she experienced some hardship and gained maturity.
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LibraryThing member LyzzyBee
(bought pre-1989: sticky backed plastic cover and student pencil notes)

I’m afraid that I have to admit that this is my favourite Jane Austen, and I’m very glad I was inspired by Ali’s revisit to come back to it myself. The tale of young Catherine Moreland, very much not a classic heroine, and
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her adventures in Bath and staying with friends in the Abbey of the title, getting all overcome by her Gothic reading matter and having all sorts of imaginings, is so mischievous and cheeky, and even the gear change between life in Bath and the gothic misconceptions doesn’t clunk as much as it amuses. Austen has female friendships and sibling relationships down so exactly, and pretty well every page has a jewel: a witty aside, a delicious turn of phrase, a subtle unpinning of the fabric of “polite society” … and Catherine is a lovely heroine, even when she’s being silly.

I do know this one really well (as my detailed student notes testify!) so there were no surprises on rereading, except maybe the balance between Bath and Abbey is rather heavier on the Bath side. It’s interesting having read it alongside “Jane Eyre”, the real gothic novel of the two, of course, and seeing the parallels: most noticeably, two solo post chaise rides across country: but Catherine is careful not to leave anything in the pockets inside the coach!

It was lovely to be able to wallow in this one again – a very worthwhile reread.
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LibraryThing member KirkLowery
Hysterically funny, especially if you've read any of the gothic novels of her time. I particularly like the authoress injecting herself into the narrative, speaking of her own feelings about her characters. She clearly doesn't take herself too seriously...
LibraryThing member mabrown2
Northanger Abbey is probably Jane Austen's lesser known novel and yet it is one of her funniest. It was the first novel she completed and is a satire on the gothic literature that was very popular at the time. Catherine Moreland is the heroine of the story. She is a small-town, naive girl who is
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taken to Bath by her friends and neighbors for a little adventure. While there, she meets Henry Tilney (the greatest and most hilarious hero Jane Austen ever created) along with some other unforgettable characters (Isabella and John Thorpe for example) who teach Catherine more about the harsh realities of life than she ever imagined. Catherine fantasizes and sometimes confuses fiction with reality, but is a very kind and trustworthy individual. It's a true delight to watch her grow up and fall in love.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland has lived a fairly sheltered life in the English countryside but is delighted to accompany her neighbors on a trip to Bath, where she meets new friends and a young man who catches her fancy. Things take a turn when her new acquaintances invite her to their
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country home, Northanger Abbey, where she fancies she will come across mysterious events and dark secrets, like those she reads about in popular horror novels.

This was my third time reading Northanger Abbey, and it never gets dull – indeed, I notice new nuances with each reading. The take-away from this novel for most readers (and admittedly for myself the first couple of times around) is that it is a parody of the Gothic novels that were popular at the time Austen wrote it. While that is true in parts, it is by and large a novel of Austen’s creation and quite like her other big five novels in terms of themes and even plot in some respects. It concerns itself with the courtship rituals and accompanying trials and tribulations of young ladies and men of the upper middle classes.

Like with Austen’s other works, two major things stand out in this novel – its wit and its characters. Austen shows her trademark humor in small asides and through the foibles of her characters. Even though this was an early work, it already shows her mastery of free indirect discourse, and she often interrupts as narrator to remind readers that this a book she is writing, thus not only trampling down the “fourth wall” but also acting as a commentary on the novels popular in her time. While this book isn’t usually considered a favorite, even among Austen’s biggest fans, it is still ripe with oft quoted lines, such as “Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love” and “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Likewise there are certainly some notable characters here, even if they don’t usually end up on anyone’s “best of” list. The protagonist, Catherine Morland, is a bit of a former tomboy who lets her imagination run wild and is charmingly naïve, thinking that all people should be as caring and honest as she herself is. Henry Tilney is not generally considered at the level of some of Austen’s other heroes, but he is well-mannered and perceptive, stands up to his father when needed, and certainly can tell a detailed and imaginative story on the fly. Meanwhile, his sister Eleanor is a truly unsung heroine from the Austen oeuvre as she is a perfect gentlewoman and true friend. And, of course, this being Austen, we have a fair share of more objectionable but certainly not less entertaining characters, including the ever fickle Isabella Thorpe, the obnoxious John Thorpe, the harsh and overbearing General Tilney, the flirtatious Caption Tilney, and the fashion-obsessed Mrs. Allen.

For the audiophile, the version I read this time was an audiobook narrated by Anna Massey, who was absolutely phenomenal. Her reading was never placid or monotone; she injected appropriate tone and emotion into each line. She also did an excellent job developing a distinct voice for each of the myriad of characters, with every voice reflecting that person’s characteristics. I highly recommend this edition for anyone interested in a reading or re-reading of this novel as an audiobook.
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LibraryThing member Romonko
I have read most of Miss Jane Austen's books, and I have enjoyed them, but this one and Mansfield Park were two that I missed some how. I decided to rectify this so read this book first. It was Jane Austen's first major novel, so it was interesting to read if for that reason alone. Miss Austin's
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talents are many, but I think the two that are the most remarkable are her characterizations, and her wonderful way of writing satire. She is known for her very real and human heroines. Catherine Morland in this book is one of these. She is very much a young 17 year old who is a product of the era she lives in. But her own innate good sense, and practicality help her to see people and the masks they assume in society for what they are. I found this book to be very warm and wonderfully light-hearted. Jane Austen's genius runs rampant through this little novel. I enjoyed it immensely.
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Barnes & Noble Classics (2005), 260 pages

Original publication date





1593083807 / 9781593083809


Original language

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