The Classics Club: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Mid-August brought cooler temperatures and showers to the UK. The sort of weather that is more typically associated with the British Summer. To go with the traditional weather I needed a traditional read. What could be more traditional than Jane Austen? Northanger Abbey awaited on my bookshelf as did Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest on my Kindle. I thought they would be great accompanying reads.

Northanger Abbey follows the coming-of-age of Catherine Morland the daughter of a country clergyman. Catherine isn’t beautiful but she has grown fair, she is tolerable well-read and skilled in her needlework but what she really adores is to read Gothic novels! Catherine’s neighbours Mr and Mrs Allen are wealthy and without children so when Catherine turns seventeen they ask her to join them for the season in Bath. Catherine has never left the country before and is wildly excited by it all. Bath offers the promise of nights at the theatre, balls, shopping, and new friends. Catherine quickly becomes attached to a Miss Thorpe and siblings Henry and Eleanor Tilney. The two friendships are to clash though and make her time in Bath difficult. Then she is offered the perfect escape. A visit to Northanger Abbey a Gothic pile in the countryside home to the Tilneys. Catherine foresees ruins, ghosts, and mysteries galore!

The protagonist of Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland is a likeable but flawed character. With her honest heart, inexperience, and vivid imagination Catherine has a lot to learn about society and friendship. I enjoyed experiencing how Catherine grows during the story through the experiences of her two friendships. I really loved Henry and Eleanor Tilney. Eleanor is just delightful while Henry is a bit of an eccentric country gentleman but I loved him for it. There is a very amusing scene where he is spinning Catherine a tale on their journey down to the Abbey worthy of any Gothic novel. In stark contrast we have Isabella and John Thorpe who I thoroughly disliked. They are both pretentious, vain, and scheming from day one sadly naïve Catherine seems to be oblivious to it all. This is perhaps the first Austen novel where I have met characters I have truly disliked and would want nothing to do with.

Northanger Abbey is the fifth novel of Jane Austen’s I have read. I love Austen’s work. All the novels I’ve read of Austen’s have been a beautiful glimpse into a by-gone age through the eyes of young women, and Northanger Abbey was no exception. What was different though was all the references to the  Gothic romance novels of the time. Not that a young lady would wish to be caught reading one! I loved all these references and that the heroine herself was unashamedly in love with them. The other main difference I found was the rather abrupt ending. Don’t get me wrong I liked the ending but we are told in hindsight about it like a report rather than viewing it for ourselves. I can perhaps now see why Northanger Abbey was not published in Austen’s lifetime. I imagine it was not what publishers thought the public were looking for from Austen which could still ring true today. This is not a novel I would recommend you reading if you are new to Austen’s writing but well worth a go if you are already a die-hard fan.

Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable coming-of-age tale in the Regency period with a Gothic romance twist! I highly recommend to existing fans of Jane Austen. This is the 16th read off my Classics Club list. Now the only Austen novel I have left to read is Mansfield Park.

Have you read this? Are you a fan of Jane Austen?


22 thoughts on “The Classics Club: Northanger Abbey

  1. Have I mentioned how much I love Northanger Abbey? I love the characters and the humor, and I feel like it’s a slightly less dense voice than some of Austen’s others. Catherine’s growth is wonderful, Mr. Tilney is wonderful, and there’s that wonderful narrative rant about the value of novels!

  2. Interesting point about the posthumous publication. Northanger Abbey is definitely different to the rest of her work. It’s got the humour and particular take on society, but the style is quite different to the others. This is one of my favourite Austen novels, just so much fun to read and great to use as a reference for further reading.

    1. Charlie how interesting this is one of your favourite Austen’s novels. I agree this was a really fun read and could see how it would be a great reference for further reading. I think I tend to lean towards the more heart-breaking tales by Austen like Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility as my favourites, but don’t ask me to choose just one! 😛

  3. Glad you liked this, Jessica. Which other Austen books are left for you? This end was a bit abrupt, but I find the most abrupt ending to be Mansfield Park. Hehe. NA is a cute novel. You should watch the recent adaptation with Felicity Jones. They stayed fairly true to the novel.

    1. Thank you Athena! I now only have Mansfield Park of Austen’s novels to read. I am slightly sad I only have one more new story to discover. Thank you for the recommendation I will certainly keep an eye out for that adaptation. I love a good adaptation 🙂

  4. I really like Northanger Abbey – very good story with lots of humor and poking fun at popular literature of the time, what’s not to love? I hope you get on okay with Mansfield Park. It is one of the two Austen’s (the other is Emma) that I’ve not been able to get through.

      1. I have confidence that you will love it. I think Northanger is probably the least loved of her novels to be honest so if you got on okay with that but didn’t think it was quite as good that’s probably why. I love the way that all the young women are so easily spooked and have rampant imaginations!
        Lynn 😀

        1. Lynn I loved how Catherine had such a rampant imagination as I can be a bit like that too! I am looking forward to reading all of Austen’s novels though I might be a bit sad when there aren’t any new stories to discover 🙂

  5. Again it’s been so long since I read this, but I love how she wrote it as a critique of the other gothic novels of the period! Such wit and sarcasm, but so finely done you can ignore it if you want.

    1. Geoff I thought this was wonderfully witty but as you said finely done so it wasn’t too in your face. I think I would probably pick up more on the critiquing on a re-read as this was my first time I kept my main attention on the characters.

  6. I really need to read this book! I’ve only read Persuasion, P&P and S&S – the former of which is one of my favourite books. I’ve heard NA is a meta novel, a critique of the gothic novels of the time, so I would definitely enjoy reading it I think.

    1. Alice I think that Persuasion is one the most beautiful and heart breaking books I’ve ever read! I hope you will be able to read Northanger Abbey soon. There certainly is some critiquing of the Gothic novels of the time going on in the novel which is fun.

  7. I haven’t read this, and whether I am a fan of Jane Austen, only time will tell. Why? Because I haven’t read any of her book, yet! Can you believe it. I want to read Pride & Prejudice first and then maybe I would consider reading this one. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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