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 remarkable innocent seventeen-year-old woman from country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Batch 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 the 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 of confusing life with art.
Executed with the high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is a lighthearted, yet unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.
The very first Jane Austen I ever read was Pride and Prejudice, which is my favorite book EVER, so it set the bar pretty dang high. I don't feel the book was quite as well paced as other Austens such as P&P or Sense and Sensibility, and the characters are not quite as vivid. That being said, while Northanger Abbey is no Pride and Prejudice, it is a wonderful story on it's own. It is well written and a very competent and well done satire. I think the message--don't get so far into fantasy that you lose touch with reality--is as true today as it was then. In fact, with all of the different types of available entertainment, I'd say it is even more applicable and relevant today. There is a delicious sense of trepidation and uneasiness throughout the heroine's stay at Northanger Abbey, and the weird vibe is very palpable, even though it is all in Catherine's head. In the end, despite her flaws, she, like every Austen heroine, eventually finds true love and companionship, despite any obstacles in her way. As always, Jane Austen is a true romantic, who didn't let that fact that she never had her happy ever after love life turn her into a cynic. She knew true love was out there, and she was determined to let that hope shine through her exquisite novels. Overall I give this book a 2, Borders with a Coupon. It is not perfection, but it is pretty dang close.
Do you agree with my review? Do you think I am totally off base? Either way I would love to hear from you. Be sure to leave a comment and tell me how you feel!
If you enjoyed Northanger Abbey, you will definitely love Pride and Prejudice, also by Jane Austen!
Looking for more history? Check out my these titles...The Boleyn Inheritance, The Other Boleyn Girl, Abundance, Nefertiti, The Perfect Royal Mistress...and don't miss out on the rest of the Historical Fiction Section.
Maybe you are looking for more of the Romance? Be sure to see the Romance section of The Book Buff.