May 262010

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Purchased

Living a sheltered and quiet life in the small, peaceful village of Fullerton, Catherine Morland, at the ripe young age of seventeen, is in want of an adventure. Since she is fond of horrid Gothic novels, the ideal adventure for Catherine would be one with sinister characters, secret mysteries, and many Gothic horrors! Catherine does receive an adventure of sorts when the she is invited to travel to Bath with her wealthy neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Allen. Leaving her confined and quiet world behind, Catherine embarks upon a trip that will introduce her to many new acquaintances, test her understanding of human nature, and teach her that the real world is nothing like the fantasy world of novels…

Out of all of Jane Austen’s novels I find Northanger Abbey to be one of her wittiest. Between her poking fun at Gothic novels and her biting social criticism, I experienced many laugh out loud moments! Moreover, in reading this novel a second time, I gained new appreciation for Jane Austen’s unabashed sarcasm and sharp tone which pour out from every page of this novel.

In writing her first serious novel, Jane Austen focuses a great deal of page time on the subject of novels and heroines: (What is a heroine? Should people read novels?) I took pleasure in seeing the characters of this novel take part in enlightening debates and discussions of other novels whether it be a horror novel or history novel. In addition, I greatly enjoyed how warmly Jane Austen defends the reading and writing of novels in her narration and commentary.

“Yes, novels; — for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding — joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it.” – The Narrator

“’It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda;’ or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” – The Narrator

Catherine Morland is an utterly delightful heroine! Some readers and critics may find Catherine to be an immature and inferior heroine, but I disagree. While it is true that Catherine is a little fanciful and young, I find her naiveté and ingenuousness to be endearing and engaging. In addition, Catherine’s tendency to think the best of everyone reminds me a little of Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. At the close of the novel, Catherine emerges as a perceptive and discerning young woman. I took pleasure in viewing the significant improvement in Catherine’s understanding, growth and maturity throughout her adventures and experiences away from home.

Northanger Abbey is a stellar masterpiece that clearly illustrates Jane Austen’s great genius. This novel will be sure to divert and entertain Jane Austen admirers no matter how many times they have previously read it before. One of the great things about rereading a novel by Jane Austen is that it will never be a dull experience; the brilliance of her writing will forever be discovered and rediscovered with each reading.

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  6 Responses to “Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen”


    I completely agree with you Meredith! I love Northanger Abbey – I did not the first time, but have read it a number of times since and like it more each time – I tell everyone who says they find it [and Catherine] silly and Henry a prig are just missing so much and to go back and give it a good re-read. So thank you for this glowing review!

    my favorite lines:

    “…if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad…”

    “…I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible” [Catherine]


    For me, there was a window of opportunity in which to enjoy this book, and it passed. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was much younger. I do like the most recent adaptation, but the age difference and the age of the very young Catherine bother my 21st century sensibilities, esp. her treatment by Col. Tilney.


    I read some survey where they said younger readers prefer Northanger Abbey. I read it first when I was 17 and indeed I loved it =) Tilney is an amazing, fun character and this book is the easiest Austen to read.


    My young readers at the JA club liked NA very much and they were charmed by Mr Tilney’s amusing, witty and sympathetic personality.But I think there are so many interesting aspects to appreciate in this novel as a grown -up fond of literature who can recognize herself in an inexperienced 17-yeaar-old country girl. For instance, metaliterature( Austen reflecting on the novel and its influence on people), parody (Austen parodizing the gothic taste) and , in general, social satire, just to mention the first three which come to my mind.
    I agree with you, Meredith: 5 out of 5 stars!


    I can definitely understand how Northanger Abbey would attract younger readers, it reminded me a little of high school, believe it or not. You know, with John Thorpe as the arrogant jock with a fast sports car, and Isabella Thorpe as the two-faced, self-involved best friend. I think a lot of people can relate to knowing people like that.

    I agree with you Maria. Perhaps those aspects aren’t as noticable or appreciated by younger readers. I read NA together with an email penpal of mine and I believe she is in her 60’s. She absolutely loved it! She saw the movies before, but it was her first time reading the book.

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!!!


    >I find her naiveté and ingenuousness to be endearing and engaging

    Agreed–and though she grows up in the novel, Catherine still retains her sweetness at the end. Always to read NA, and to read reviews by people who appreciate it!

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