Review

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen

“To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain in the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.” – Jane Austen

I read this book earlier in the summer but, as explained in my previous blog post, I have been busy working and unfortunately neglected this blog.

I had been meaning to read Northanger Abbey for ages.  After a discussion about it with my grandma and some of her friends last Boxing Day, it has been on my list just waiting for the right opportunity to be read.

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Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s parody of the rise of the Gothic genre in the early 19th century.  It is the story of Catherine Morland who is sent to Bath at the age of seventeen with a family friend in order for her to find a better society than in the country.  Along the way, Catherine meets Henry Tilney and his family who invite her to stay in Northanger Abbey – a place that excites her love of Gothic novels.

Like all Austen novels, it is a novel with a deep commentary on society and etiquette of the time, with particular focus on the importance of courtship and marriage for the young people and their families in the nineteenth century.  As well as this, Northanger Abbey offers a very amusing satirical view of the Gothic genre and on society’s attitudes towards novels.  Following Austen’s usual narrative style, the story mainly follows the protagonist, Catherine, with occasional focus on other major characters to offer alternative points of view.  However, Austen also affords herself space to have a voice of her own.  After describing Catherine and Isabella’s blossoming friendship, which included their mutual love of novel reading’, Austen explains how she dislikes the lack of protagonists in novels reading other novels, and that novels should be more highly regarded.  This injection of solid and explicit opinion in a novel was very sudden and was very fascinating to read.

As I am a fan of Austen’s work, I really enjoyed reading this book.  Catherine, as a character, is very likeable and all the mistakes she makes in misjudging Northanger Abbey and the Tilneys is easily laughed off by herself, the other characters and the readers.  It’s the fourth Austen novel I have now read (the last one being Mansfield Park) and I’m really excited to read the further two – Emma and Sense and Sensibility – in the future.

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