Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey has been on my shelves the longest of all my Austen novels. As a young person perusing the classics section, I was taken with the promise of locked rooms and Gothic intrigue. It's just a shame it took me this long to read the book!

The most youthful and optimistic of Jane Austen's novels, Northanger Abbey, tells the story of naive, charming Catherine Morland, who is obsessed with reading Gothic romance and horror. When Catherine is invited to stay at her new friends' grand house, Northanger Abbey, with its mysterious suite of sealed-off rooms, her melodramatic imagination threatens to run away with her. As comic misunderstandings ensue, she comes to understand the gap between fantasy and reality, false friends and true feeling. 
--from the book Penguin English Library book jacket.
This was the first novel Austen sold (1803) but it was not published until 1818--15 years later and the year following her death. I'd read that it's the most lighthearted of Austen's novels, and I would agree that it is the lightest of the ones I've read: Pride and Prejudice and Emma. 
Austen's usual suspects are here...society balls, a widening social circle, a close female confidante, a love interest, some seriously annoying jackasses bent on manipulation.
Our protagonist, Catherine Morland, is delightfully clueless. She is naive, and wholly well-intentioned, she doesn't quite know her opinions yet, and she's far more likely to accept the convictions of those around her than to formulate her own ideas. In short, she ain't no Elizabeth Bennet. She's young; she's green. But that's what sets up the novel's conflict. She is manipulated by a set of false friends. The first half of the novel is mostly Catherine's introduction to the social scene in Bath and those crap friends, and the latter half of the novel is ironing out all of the mishaps in the way of her falling in love. And the Abbey! The Gothic goodness is concentrated in the second section.
One thing that is different from Austen's other couples, is that Catherine Morland and her true love are on very different intellectual levels. He's quite opinionated about everything, but he finds it charming that Catherine is a sweet, genuinely good-natured girl, but doesn't have an strong conviction in her head. Anytime she says something flighty he points out how pure of heart she is. How wonderfully sweet and bomb diggity
So yeah, that could get old in a longer book. It didn't bother me too much here, it was just different. The dynamics between Cath and her man were far-removed from Darcy and Elizabeth or Emma and Knightley. I don't see how it could be a workable long-term pairing, but that's neither here nor there. 
This was a fun, relaxing read. In comparison to the other Austen novels I've loved, this one is behind in the race. I rated it 4/5 stars on Goodreads, in comparison to the other novels which got 5 stars. Still not bad! Not bad at all. 
This post is for Roof Beam Reader's Austen in August event! I also have Persuasion on my pile. I would love to get to it this month, but that may not happen with some other reading commitments on the docket. 



This is also a book I chose for the Classics Club.
Which is your favorite Jane Austen novel? Have you read Northanger Abbey

Pub date: December 2010
Publisher: Penguin (English Library)
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780141389424 
Source: Purchased by me. 



41 comments:

  1. Yay! I'm glad you enjoyed this one :-) I agree with you that it always feels a little different from her other works? Then again, I do like Northanger Abbey, perhaps mostly because it really shows Austen's wit and social commentary?

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    1. Definitely, but in a good way! In a young, fun, springy way. It's definitely wittier than any of her other books, and I appreciated that.

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  2. Northanger Abbey is my favourite Austen novel and more so because of the care-free, sweet natured and gothic novel enthusiast Catherine Morland! I also loved the TV movie starring Felicity Jones.

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    1. Exactly! Catherine was a great character. I really enjoyed getting to know her. :)

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  3. So glad to hear you enjoyed it. So far I think Persuasion is my favorite but I still have a couple more to go!

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    1. I still have that one to read! I have another beautiful Penguin English Library edition, too. They're a joy to hold.

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  4. I'm hanging my head in shame because I think I've only read one Austen novel - Pride and Prejudice.

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    1. P&P was the first one I read, and it took me years to read another. I loved them both, but I think I've been moving slowly through them, sort of savoring them. Now I just want to gobble them all up and start re-reading. :)

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  5. 2 birds, 1 stone...love when that happens ;) This is another book that I'd really like to re-read one day. It's been much too long.

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    1. Right?? Awesome feeling. :)

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  6. This is one of the two Austen novels I haven't yet tackled. Austen in August you say? Hmmm...

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    1. YES!!! Definitely check out Austen in August. Adam is amazing!

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  7. So after reading this review, I thought that it sounded lie something I would enjoy reading. So I wanted to add it to my wish list - turns out, I already own the darn thing...! Apparently I bought it in February last year - and then forgot about it. So maybe I can just have time to finish this one before the Mansfield Park readalong...

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    1. LOL, this sounds so much like something I would do!!! I used to know every single book on my shelves, but I've begun to forget about them here and there. Eeek!

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  8. *Shakes fist at you* This is my favorite Austen novel and therefore you must re-read it again and find everything I loved about it, deem it perfect, and re-rate it on Goodreads!

    Just kidding. Your review is great - it's not her best work, really. But it's my personal favorite for a few reasons, mostly because I enjoy how blatantly sarcastic it is and how bold she was. She definitely hones her skills later on, though, including her development of a subtle humor & complexity of narrative.

    Glad you got to this one! :)

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    1. LOL, it's definitely going on my re-read pile (where all the Austen novels live). The sarcasm was a little shocking at first! I was like, "Jane! Is that really you?" It was a lot of fun, and quite light and springy-feeling in spite of the sarcasm and the poking fun at Gothic literature.

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  9. This isn't my favorite Austen, but I did enjoy it. It really is light and funny. I'm glad to see you also liked Emma. That's my favorite (at least for the moment)!

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    1. Loooove me some Emma! Love. Partially because I picture Jeremy Northam when I'm reading. :)

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  10. I've only read P&P which I loved. I have the whole set of Austen novels, but just haven't gotten around to them yet. I have to admit that after reading your post I am definitely looking forward to more Austen, especially Northanger Abbey :)

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    1. I hope you decide to try some more Austen soon. Preferably Emma or Northanger!

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  11. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I totally agree that it is not the best. It's up there, but not the best. Not as good as Persuasion, anyway! I'm on Emma now and really quite loving her or loving to hate her - I'm not sure which.

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    1. And I'm SO excited to read Persuasion! It's waggling its eyebrows at me from my stacks.

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  12. Hahaha, you know, I have a totally different reaction to the Henry Tilney-Catherine relationship. I always think how refreshing it is for the hero and heroine to get such a kick out of each other, which doesn't always happen in Jane Austen. I'm rereading Emma, still my favorite Jane Austen book, and I keep feeling sad at how mean Knightley is about Emma. I'm just at the beginning when he's telling Mrs. Weston how awful Harriet will be for Emma and he's all like, "Sure, Emma's PRETTY but she's so full of herself!"

    (Which, you know. She is. But still.)

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    1. Good point. They are not the serious, angsty type, that's for sure. That's why this book has such an upbeat, springy feel I think. Knightley is a lot meaner about Emma's flaws in the book than he is in the movie version, for sure. That stuck out to me when I read it a few years back.

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  13. NA brings back fond memories of when I studied it for my English Lit exam aged 16. I actually prefer it to Emma.

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    1. Fun! I think I prefer Emma because it's such a staple for me from that same teen time period. The film more than the book, though. I only read the book later.

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  14. I haven't see the TV version you've watched, but I would highly recommend the older BBC production starring Peter Firth and Robert Hardy. It is highly entertaining, gorgeously gothic and a little bit sexy!

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    1. I will definitely check that out! I bet it's on YouTube somewhere.

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  15. Well guilty as charged I haven't read this one. I've read Pride and Prejudice and Emma as well. Really need to get on to older classics and particularly this one and Sense and Sensibility. Nicely written post, just as light-hearted as you said Northanger Abbey is. Thanks for the push!

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    1. This was a lot of fun, and Claire from ReadingBukowski got me interested in reading Persuasion, so it's next up on my stacks. :D

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  16. I just finished this one so I've been holding off reading your review until now. I think I liked this book more than you - it's probably my favourite Austen so far out of the four I have read.

    I got the impression that whilst Catherine & Henry were very much on different intellectual levels, he learned from her too.

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    1. That's awesome that you found a new Austen fave! And yes, I can agree that they still learn from each other. They're quite a fun couple -- less serious than most.

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  17. This is one of the few Austens I haven't reread yet. I love the playful tone, but the first time around it definitely didn't make me love it quite as much as her others. I know I'll reread soon though.

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    1. I need to finish reading Austen and then re-read. Classics are just about the only books I re-read because I get so much more out of them the second, third, fourth time. :)

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  18. I've read all of Austen but I haven't read this one since high school. I need to reread it sometime because I don't remember that much about it. I think some of the vague pictures I have in my head (I'm a very visual reader) might actually be from Mansfield Park. My favorites are P&P and Persuasion, they take turns being first.

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    1. I'm a visual reader too. I'm right there with you. I imagine my own personal movie version in my head as I read, and I remember that movie version! lol I cannot wait to read Persuasion!

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  19. I haven't yet read this particular Austen novel, but I do want to.

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  20. This was my least favourite Austen too, though it did make me laugh out loud at some parts (Mrs. Allen) and cringe in others (John, ugh) - cringe in a good way, that is, in a way that made me recall incidents from my own teenage years.

    It actually really bothered me how Henry was such a smug douche sometimes, because he's so much more worldly.. duh, you're 26, she's 17!

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  21. Reading reviews on the classics reminds me how behind I am in reading the classics. I need to remember to make that more of a priority. But it can be oh so difficult when there are so many good books coming out constantly!

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  22. It had been a long time since I last read Northanger Abbey, and I'm so glad Katie encouraged me to do it with her read-along. The title for my blog actually comes from this novel, though it's never been my favorite Jane Austen (which is currently Persuasion). I've read almost all of Jane Austen's novels (all but Sanditon), and my favorite changes every couple of years! I like Northanger Abbey for all of the reasons I like Austen's other novels: its commentary on gender roles, marriage, and other aspects of regency society. It's interesting to think about the ways attitudes have changed--and the ways they haven't--in the 200 years since she published her works.

    I enjoyed reading your review!

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  23. Love this! Thanks for linking up, dahling. Catherine IS the bomb diggity. (And I might have a crush on Henry Tilney. Shhhh don't tell!)

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