Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT?
Here’s a synopsis from Penguin Classics:
During an eventful season at Bath, young, naive Catherine Morland experiences fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who introduces Catherine to the joys of Gothic romances, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father’s house, Northanger Abbey. There, influenced by novels of horror and intrigue, Catherine comes to imagine terrible crimes committed by General Tilney, risking the loss of Henry’s affection, and must learn the difference between fiction and reality, false friends and true. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, Northanger Abbey is the most youthful and optimistic of Jane Austen’s works.
WHAT DID I THINK OF THE BOOK?
I liked the first few chapters and the parts when the characters are described and introduced. There was some deprecation going on when Catherine Morland was being introduced. It was fun to read! Then, I found the middle part of the book a little boring… Balls (the kind where you dance), long walks, carriage rides, clothes, fabric, and more balls. However, it got a bit interesting again when Catherine was invited to stay at Northanger Abbey.
— Warning: A bit of spoilers coming up… —
Isabella is a tad pushy and annoying (but Lydia from P&P still tops my “annoying Austen characters” list). She’s superficial and quite shallow. She always reacts to things in an over-the-top kind of manner and thinks so highly of herself while pretending not to be thinking highly of herself, I think. Her brother, John Thorpe, is someone I would be civil with when interacting, but try to avoid whenever I can. He’s quite pompous, that one.
I liked the brother-sister bond that Miss Tilney and Mr. Tilney has. Reminds me of my dear brother. We can be totally ourselves around each other, having fun reminiscing and quoting lines from books or movies or songs without feeling like weirdos. I loved how cheeky and playful Mr. Tilney could be! Very conversational, charming, and outgoing (totally my opposite 😆 )
I could relate to Catherine when John, Isabella, and James, were trying to persuade her to ditch her previous engagement with the Tilneys and go with them instead. They even resorted to guilt-tripping tactics (which I so despise because I think it’s like hitting below the belt!). How rude!
Catherine had a very active (overactive?) imagination. Thinking that things she read in gothic novels could have happened at Northanger, and thinking the worst of General Tilney. I think Mr. Tilney gave her a pretty good lecture and scolding when he figured out what she has been thinking about the circumstances of his mother’s demise. She deserved it. I think it was very gentlemanly of him to be able to forgive her quite quickly and act as nice as he was around her. Now, General Tilney’s behavior when he later kicked her out of Northanger was not so gentlemanly. That was no way to treat a young lady! I can understand why Miss Tilney and Mr. Tilney were very embarrassed about it and kept apologizing to Catherine.
But all’s well that ends well. It ends in a pretty happy note. And Catherine learned not to let her imagination of gothic novel scenarios run wild anymore.
- “Yes, I know exactly what you will say:– ‘Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings, plain black shoes; appeared to much advantage, but was strangely harassed by a queer half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.'” (Mr. Tilney) | “Indeed I shall say no such thing!” (Catherine)
- “Shall I tell you what you ought to say?” (Mr. Tilney) | “If you please.” (Catherine) | “I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him; seems a most extraordinary genius; I hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say.” (Mr. Tilney)
- Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.
- “Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of anybody else. Everything is so insipid, so uninteresting, that does not relate to the beloved object!” – Isabella
- “If I am wrong, I am doing what I believe to be right” – Catherine
- “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” – Mr. Tilney
- “A mother would have been always present; a mother would have been a constant friend; her influence would have been beyond all other.” – Miss Tilney
- “Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?” – Mr. Tilney
- “Dearest Catherine, beware how you give your heart.” – James
- “To have so kind-hearted, so affectionate a sister,” replied Henry warmly, “must be a comfort to him under any distress.”
TO WRAP THINGS UP…
I think it’s much cheerier and lighthearted than Pride and Prejudice. I was very amused with the first few chapters, particularly the parts where Catherine was being
deprecated introduced and described why she was an unlikely heroine. I found the story a bit boring in the middle, but it became interesting again once Catherine began her stay at Northanger as a guest.
Among the characters, I especially liked Mr. Tilney. I liked how cheeky he can be. I think he would be an interesting person to talk to and fun to be around if he were real. Catherine was all right. I thought she sometimes showed some similarities with Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse from P&P and Emma. I imagine Catherine has learned her lesson, and also learned how not to be too trusting and naive. I think she’s lucky to have such parents and friends around her who care for her well-being so deeply.
It was an entertaining story overall, but personally speaking, I’d rank it below P&P and Emma.