Author: Jane Austen
Published: Originally December 1818 by John Murray
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Synopsis: A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.
The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.
Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.
I have an interesting history with Jane Austen. I know a lot of book lovers list her as one of their favorite authors and especially female book lovers probably list one of her books as their favorite classics. I however am not one of those people. I mean don't get me wrong, I like Austen but for me a lot of her stuff is kind of hit and miss. I have loved some, hated some, found some to be wordy, found others to be beautiful.
One of the more lighthearted things about this book that also makes it quite an interesting parody is the romance. Jane Austen is the master of writing relationships that develop over time after a series of misunderstandings. But here she seems to be parodying herself. There are in fact misunderstandings but it is nor in terms of romantic feels or the characters feelings for one another. In fact the romantic leads spend a lot of time together flirting in a chaste 19th century sort of way. There is of course the typical Austenian love triangle and discussion of whether or not the character is an appropriate match but it never really seems to have the kind of drama that some of her other books have had.
I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey, it may have even beat out Sense and Sensibility as my favorite Jane Austen novel. It's a fast and fun read perfect for fans of classic literature especially if you enjoy Austen's other work or are a fan of books like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Dickens but don't mind a little parody of your beloved books.
Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This is definitely a classic I would recommend. It's not very long so you can probably cruise through it in a few days like I did. If you are a fan of Jane Austen then you must read this one. It's tongue in cheek but combines a lot of the best elements in Austen's novels to make something new and interesting.