Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey
By Jane Austen
Clio Press, 1991. 234 pgs. Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is given the opportunity to go to Bath, where she meets the handsome Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor. Although another friend, Isabella Thorpe and her brother John, seem determined to monopolize all of Catherine's time, she cultivates the friendship with Eleanor and Henry and soon their father, who is almost excessively friendly to Catherine, invites her to visit them at their estate, Northanger Abbey. While there, Catherine, who is a fan of gothic novels, finds her imagination swayed by her reading and fears that there is a dreadful mystery hidden within the walls of the abbey.

This is the most lighthearted of Austen's novels and perhaps the most tongue-in-cheek, as the opinions of even the most likable of the characters can seem ridiculous. The first part of the book serves to illustrate Catherine's utter naivete and lack of understanding of people's characters and intentions, particularly that of Isabella and John. While that serves to firmly establish Catherine as unsuspecting and innocent, it can also serve to slightly annoy the reader, since Isabella and John prattle on and on and Catherine doesn't seem to understand anything that's going on. It's a relief when her visit to Northanger Abbey finally happens and her imagination runs wild. I probably liked this least of all of Austen's novels, perhaps because the romance wasn't as strong as in her other books, but I did like that I could just breeze through it. It'd be a fun one to read with a friend and laugh at all of the silliness of the society and the characters.


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