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?