by Jane Austen
It’s been a decade since I read Northanger Abbey for the first time. Re-reading it was such a delight.
Catherine Morland is a young woman who lets her imagination run wild and loves to get lost in novels. While staying in Bath with family friends she meets two sets of brothers and sisters. The first is the Thorpes, Isabella and her brother John, who become insufferable as their true nature is slowly revealed. One of my favorite parts in the novel is when Catherine finally stands up to them, refusing to go along with their plans and cancel on her other friends again.
The other pair of siblings is Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor. Austen does a wonderful job comparing and contrasting the two sets of siblings, demonstrating a false nature vs. a genuine one. After getting to know Henry and Eleanor in Bath, Catherine is eventually invited to stay at their home, Northanger Abbey. There the young woman’s love of gothic novels gets the best of her as she imagines dramatic tales unfolding around her.
One thing that set Northanger Abbey apart from Austen’s other work is the relationship between Catherine and Henry. In most Austen novels the heroine and her eventual match don’t like each other or have some huge obstacle to overcome at the beginning of the novel. In Northanger Abbey, Catherine and Henry like each other from the start. I love their sweet flirtation. Henry is patient with her and teases her in a kind way. He also rises above his father and his brother when it comes to his priorities and moral compass. He’s a truly good man and one of my favorite male Austen characters.
A Few Things That Stood Out to Me This Time:
- Henry is a word nerd! At one point in the story he corrects Catherine in the way she uses the word “nice.” He does it in a playful, teasing way, but I love that he is a grammar lover.
- Eleanor was only 13 years old when her mother died. I was only 14 when mine passed away and what she said about the loss rang true to me…
“Her death must have been a great affliction!”
“A great and increasing one,” replied the other in a low voice. “I was only thirteen when it happened; and though I felt my loss perhaps as strongly as one so young could feel it, I did not, I could not then know what a loss it was.”
- I’m reading Trollope right now as well and the goal of marrying for money is prevalent in both books. It never ends well for anyone.
- I love Austen’s jab about putting down other novelists. She pokes fun at the fact that high-brow authors of her time period often bash the authors of novels. She suggests that instead they should all stand up for each other.
BOTTOM LINE: Northanger Abbey is fun and sweet. It’s a quick read and a great way to meet Austen for the first time. It’s not my favorite of her books, but Austen is my literary pizza, you can’t find a “bad” Austen novel.
I read this as part of the Austen in August event hosted by Lost Generation Reader.