Review – Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey from The Complete Works of Jane Austen

By Jane Austen

Douglas Editions

BN ID: 2940000816981

4.5 stars

On a quest to finish reading all of Austen’s works this year, I bring you my Northanger Abbey thoughts.

Seventeen year-old Catherine Morland is excited to be on holiday with family friends, Mr. and Mrs. Allen.  Her first visit to the resort town of Bath, she befriends Isabella Thorpe, a young woman much like herself with many of the same interests and the two becomes quite close in a very short time, attending balls and gossiping about the town’s visitors.  While waiting for her love interest, Henry Tilney, to return, Isabella’s brother John Thorpe begins to pursue Catherine.  She manages to keep him at bay and at the same time make friends with Henry’s sister, Eleanor, who invites her back to their estate — Northanger Abbey — for an extended visit.  Catherine, a reader and enthusiast of gothic novels, lets her imagination run wild envisioning the Abbey to be more thrilling than the tranquility it exudes and she starts looking for exotic explanations for simple human reactions to tragedy.

Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s take on a gothic novel.  Each time I pick up one of her books I have a certain expectation —- there will be a heroine, a love interest, a blossoming love story, a love-laced blunder, and true love found at last.  All of that happened but there was a little more to this one; the gothic tale.  I’m not familiar with the novel The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliff which the main character Catherine adores, however, since reading this book I have downloaded it to my Nook and plan to take a look soon.  It’s really a wicked little jab at these horror stories and Catherine’s love of these types of books and her insistence on how well-written there are goes against the proclamations of others and is obviously Austen’s opinion of this genre made very clear.

As for characters, she once again delivers.  Catherine — a naïve, very likable person unwilling to believe a friend could do her wrong or that a dark side of life can exist.  She’s really lovely if somewhat absorbed in a world of fantasy.  I also very much enjoyed John Thorpe.  He’s brash, annoying, disagreeable, unlikeable, and spot on.  In no way do you want Catherine to acknowledge him let alone fall in love with him.  Henry, for me, was slightly boring (he’s no Mr. Darcy but who is?) but I found him endearing and a good fit for Catherine.

I waited a long time for the story to move to Northanger Abbey and was slightly disappointed with it, much like Catherine herself, but I loved her enthusiasm in uncovering what she believes to be the truth about the old Abbey.  It did follow a regular arc I’ve come to expect and love from Austen and I found Northanger Abbey to be a worthwhile addition to her collection and one I think I might read again.

Mansfield Park is next in my Austen reading but I probably won’t slip into it until later this year but I’m looking forward to it.


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