Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Book #932

Reviewer: Ange P

NAI really enjoyed this, because I like light fluff.  Its much lighter than any other Austen novels. I also think that I enjoyed it so much because there is so much mockery of The Mysteries of Udolpho, which I reviewed earlier.

I also think that Austen wrote Northanger Abbey to be ‘fun’ and it is fun, but its lack of deep themes and complex characters means that there is little to review. The fun is provided by mockery of romantic novels of the time and Austen did give my romantic streak a little shock right at the end, by letting her pragmatic spirit shine through with a truth that I couldn’t deny, but that I think every true romantic tries to ignore:

I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought. It is a new circumstance in romance, I acknowledge, and dreadfully derogatory of an heroine’s dignity…

The plot is pretty basic.  Catherine  goes to Bath with some family friends.  She doesn’t know anyone but soon makes some new acquaintances.  Soon her brother arrives and forms an attachment with one of Catherine’s new friends, causing Catherine to learn some much needed life lessons.  Catherine herself finds Mr Tilney of particular interest.  Catherine is invited by General Tilney to stay at the family estate, where she hopes to further her acquaintance with Mr Tilney.  However, she is quickly distracted by the mystery created by General Tilney’s demeanour and ‘odd’ behaviour.  This leads her into a bit of a scrape.  Soon after, General Tilney ejects her from the house.  Will she ever be reunited with Mr Tilney?

One of the most amusing aspects of Northanger Abbey was my realisation that teenagers being stupid and annoying and chattering away aimlessly is not a recent phenomenon.  They’ve been doing it forever.  And Austen really is one of the most talented authors I’ve ever read.  She provides a beautiful parody of teenagers that, 200 years later, I can still relate to.  How cool is that?

They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived nearly five minutes before her friend, her first address naturally was, ” My dearest creature, what can have made you so late? I have been waiting for you at least this age!”

“Have you, indeed! I am very sorry for it; but really I thought I was in very good time. It is but just one. I hope you have not been here long?”

“Oh! These ten ages at least. I am sure I have been here this half hour. But now, let us go and sit down at the other end of the room, and enjoy ourselves. I have an hundred things to say to you. In the first place, I was so afraid it would rain this morning, just as I wanted to set off; it looked very showery, and that would have thrown me into agonies! Do you know, I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now—very like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it. But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning?”

I suspect that many readers would find Catherine annoying in her naivety.  But I found that Austen balanced her character beautifully by providing her with the ability to learn from her mistakes. At various times I cringed from her stupidity but at least Austen doesn’t let the situations drag on and on.

Austen’s comment on themes is:

I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.

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