Thursday, 9 November 2017

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
First published in England by John Murray in December 1817.

I read my first Jane Austen book, Persuasion, in January, having previously only watched TV or film adaptations. Realising that 2017 is the 200th anniversary year of Austen's death, I challenged myself to read all six of her novels within the year.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is one of ten children of a country clergyman. Although a tomboy in her childhood, by the age of 17 she is "in training for a heroine" and is excessively fond of reading Gothic novels, among which Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho is a favourite. Catherine is invited by the Allens, her wealthier neighbours in Fullerton, to accompany them to visit the town of Bath and partake in the winter season of balls, theatre and other social delights.

Although initially the excitement of Bath is dampened by her lack of acquaintances, she is soon introduced to a clever young gentleman, Henry Tilney, with whom she dances and converses. Much to Catherine's disappointment, Henry does not reappear in the subsequent week and, not knowing whether or not he has left Bath for good, she wonders if she will ever see him again.

Through Mrs. Allen's old school-friend Mrs. Thorpe, she meets her daughter Isabella, a vivacious and flirtatious young woman, and the two quickly become friends. Mrs. Thorpe's son John is also a friend of Catherine's older brother, James, at Oxford where they are both students. James and John arrive unexpectedly in Bath. While Isabella and James spend time together, Catherine becomes acquainted with John, a vain and crude young gentleman who incessantly tells fantastical stories about himself.

Northanger Abbey is easily my favourite of the five Jane Austen novels I have read so far this year. From what I have heard about Emma, I think it may well turn out to be my favourite of the whole challenge! A considerably shorter work than some of the others, there isn't the space for lengthy diversions so I appreciated Austen's maintaining a good narrative pace throughout. I could empathise with ill-at-ease Catherine and really began to root for her once she started standing up to the selfish Thorpes.

What I now recognise as Austen trademarks are all present and correct! Much of the action happens in Bath society. The older female character, in this case the airheaded Mrs Allen, provides much of the humour, and no attachment can be assumed to be secured until the church bells have rung. I loved the additional excursion into Gothic darkness and Catherine's first night at Northanger Abbey is wonderfully atmospheric. I felt Austen spoke directly to her readers more in this book than in the others. Apparently this was the first she completed although one of the last to actually see publication. Perhaps a future editor discouraged the style, but I enjoyed her defense of novelists and her frequent namedropping of other authors she liked herself. I am now seriously considering the six Mrs Radcliffe novels for my 2018 challenge!

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  1. I loved the style of this as well! I really enjoyed Austen's satirical humor and how she took little breaks from the story to rant to the reader :) And I agree with you: the length is so much better than her other novels. I started Pride and Prejudice a while ago but I'm struggling to finish because it's got the amount of description that's in J.R.R. Tolkien's writing (which is lovely in fantasy but not so much in realistic fiction). Lovely review, Stephanie!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. I found that with Mansfield Park too. If it had been my first Austen, I probably wouldn't have gone on to read any others!

  2. ahhh nothing like Gothic darkness to make one atmospheric experience! Glad you enjoyed this one!

  3. I have read all of Austen's most famous and renound classics EXCEPTING this one! Hopefully I'll be able to get to it in 2018. I'm surprised you've loved this one most so far - hopefully I'll be able to love it just as much.