“The story’s heroine is Catherine Morland, an 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.”
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
It’s very hard not to compare every one of Jane Austen’s other works to her masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice. And in some ways, I suppose that’s very unfair. Austen was a literary genius and though her other novels may not measure up to Pride and Prejudice, they are in of themselves great works of art that challenged the English cult of civility and decorum during her time.
Though not as engrossing and groundbreaking as P&P, Northanger Abbey is still pretty entertaining. This one is called Austen’s gothic parody, and what a parody it was.
Catherine Morland is a lovably flawed creature who has a hard time discerning fact from fiction, and frequently allows her fancies to bleed into her reality. She loves gothic novels so much that she expects her experiences in life to turn out like one, especially once she is invited to stay at Northanger Abbey with Henry Tilney and his family.
I loved Catherine as a “heroine.” She is relatable, honest, self-aware, and quite silly. Her fascination with Henry Tilney exceeds that of decorum and though she is painted as an unexperienced girl from the country who finds herself in the polite society of Bath, she seems to be the most trustworthy and well-meaning character of the cast.
The conversations between Henry and Catherine were giggle worthy and the drama set up by some other characters and their lack of integrity is absolutely enthralling and something to be talked about.
Some of the characters were a lot less likable than Austen had hoped they would be. Tilney had some pretty great dialogue in the first half, but by the second, his charm had worn off for me and I began to see the meanness, or rather, the imperfections in him. Which might be an aspect of Austen’s satire but I’m not entirely sure.
The first volume was far more interesting than the second in my opinion. The abbey is not introduced until the second volume and so I expected the course of events to be much more interesting than they were. I was pretty disappointed by the lack drama in the second half of the book, as opposed to the first, but the book as a whole is a pretty great read.
Even so, I really enjoyed this one and I’d actually go so far to say I might reread again sometime in the future!