Northanger Abbey

Friday, August 15, 2014

Northanger Abbey
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.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I've not read this one, but I find Austen to be completely adorable and clever. I always tell myself I need to dig into this one (and others) but then I get distracted.

JoAnn said...

I love Northanger Abbey... think it may be Jane at her funniest!

Anonymous said...

I'm currently reading Mansfield Park and have a TBR a mile long, but you've made me want to re-read Northanger Abbey. :)
I really enjoyed the 2007 film - J J Feild is a scrumptious Henry Tilney (I loved that they cast an Austen hero as the love interest in Austenland too!).

Anonymous said...

LOL - I went to add Northanger Abbey to my Goodreads TBR and it's already there! Now it just needs to be moved up the list. :D

Anonymous said...

Great review! I re-read Northanger Abbey in May, and really enjoyed it all over again (the name of my blog comes from it). I love Henry Tilney. He might be my favorite Austen "hero."

o said...

I enjoyed this one as well, and I'm thinking it will be a good October re-read :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - She's one classic author I do think you'd enjoy. Maybe an audio version of Pride and Prejudice!

JoAnn - I agree, she's hilarious in this one. I love that she pokes fun at Catherine while obviously caring for her as a character.

abibliophilesstyle - I loevd the 2007 movie too and was thrilled when he was in Austenland! Can't wait to hear your reread thoughts!

misfortuneofknowing - Henry is just the best! It really was a wonderful reread.

o - It's perfect for that time of year because it has just a touch of the gothic mystery!

Anonymous said...

I just recently re-read this one too. (I had loaned it to a friend who really loved it and when she returned it she said, "You should re-read it, Jay!" So I did, partly because I'd heard of the new, modernized Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid and wanted to write a post comparing the two. (I turned out not to like the new version AT ALL and haven't posted about it and may not since I don't enjoy writing "negative" reviews). I think it was part of "The Austen Project" which I don't know much about but apparently is a series of current authors re-writing, or re-telling at least, the Austen stories. Why would anyone think that is necessary?!l it must just be an attempt to wring some money out of people who are Austen fans...

jilllora said...

One of these days I am going to read and LIKE an Austen novel. It's actually one of my goal's in life. :-D

nishitak said...

Stumbled on your blog from the classics club site.

This is one of my favorite Austens, and I love the easiness of their romance so much. Makes such a pleasant change. I must see the movie now!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

bibliophilica - I tend to NOT be a fan of modernized book versions of classics. They always just make me want to reread the original. I do love modernized movie versions sometimes if they're done well.

jillora - Ha, like any author, she's definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Twain hated her work with a passion!

nishitak - It is such a sweet story! So glad you found my blog, the Classics Club is such a great resource.

Amy said...

One of my favorites!

Brona said...

I agree Melissa - there is no such thing as a dud Austen.

I love the flirtation that JA uses in this book - JA may never have married, but she certainly knew the pleasures of flirting with a lovely man.

This was never my favourite Austen until I saw a wonderful old BBC production of it starring Peter Firth and Robert Hardy. The flirting was gorgeous, the gothic suspence was delicious and it gave me an interpretation of Catherine that I took to.

But I'm with bibliophilic - stay clear of the current reworkings. I tried to read Joanna Trollope's S&S this month - it was ghastly! Review to come!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brona - I will definitely have to check out the BBC production. I loev Austen movies when they are well done.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

"Literary pizza" -- exactly! Great description.

Found your blog via the Classics Club, btw. I'm quite enjoying your posts :-)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Hamlette - Thanks! The Classics Club is such a great community. I love being part of it.