36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2007
I'm completely shocked that many people regard 'Northanger Abbey' as the worst of Austen's books as I believe it is beautifully written and very easy to read. The characters are wonderful especially Catherine and Henry, and General Tilney is someone you love to hate. Now after seeing the recent ITV adaptation, my love for the book has been re-newed and I really want to read it again. N.A is so different to all of Austen's other novels but that's why I love it so much and the ending although very predictable, is very sweet and is what the reader hopes for throughout. An excellent read.
57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
I approached this book somewhat warily, knowing that Northanger Abbey was to some degree a satirical take on the immense popularity of Gothic romances such as Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, a book I dearly love. Happily, Austen's means of poking fun at Gothic horror literature are far from mean-spirited and, as a matter of fact, can be delightfully humorous indeed. Her heroine, Catherine Morland, is by no means the type of heroine to be found in the giant tomes of Radcliffe and her indulgent imitators, as Austen tells her reading audience directly from the very start. "Almost attractive" on a good day, this unintellectual tomboy has reached her fifteenth year without inspiring a young man's fancy, nor would she be able to delight him with musical skill or even draw his profile in her secret notebooks if she had. Having encountered no strangers who would prove to be a lord or prince in disguise, her heroic ambitions seem stymied at best until fate steps in and grants her a stay of several weeks in the delightful town of Bath. Making her transition from naïve girl to equally naïve young lady, Catherine almost immediately falls quite in love with young Henry Tilney, while at the same time she becomes intimate friends with an older young lady named Isabella, whose inconstancy as both friend and intended beloved of Catherine's own brother eventually brings her much pain. To her intense delight, however, Catherine is invited by General Tilney, Henry's father, to spend some few weeks in his home, Northanger Abbey. Her joy at spending such private time in the company of her beloved and new best friend Eleanor Tilney is immense, but equally exciting to her is the chance to spend time in a mysterious former abbey of the sort she has read so much about. Such Gothic romances as Udolpho have been the source of her recent heroic training, and she is wildly desirous and fully expectant of discovering hidden passages, dark secrets, frightening circumstances, and possibly even incalcitrant perfidy in the halls of her beloved's family home. Her overactive imagination runs wild in Northanger Abbey, bringing her a fair share of embarrassment, but the very sweet and tender sensibilities that fuel her fire for Gothic mystery make her all the more endearing to me. Catherine is remarkably innocent, and as such she is absolutely delightful in my eyes.
Much of the story does fit in with your typical Gothic novel, but the frightening and dismaying things Catherine eventually discovers are of a far from supernatural sort. Ever so gradually, a true monster slowly coalesces from the pages of this remarkable novel. I, like young Catherine, was somewhat overenthusiastic concerning the Gothic qualities of this adventure I feel I shared with her, and the truly despicable thoughts and actions of the book's villain did not immediately strike me as forcefully as they should have; the afterword by Elizabeth Hardwick included in my Signet Classic copy of the book, however, served to make me fully comprehend its import. Greed, selfishness, pride-these are the horrors of Northanger Abbey, and it does deeply hurt a reader of romantic sensitivity to stand idly by, unable to aid and assist a sweet young lady such as Catherine in her time of despair and emotional suffering.
Lovers of Gothic horror or literature in general will surely find nothing but delight in the pages of Northanger Abbey. Austen's critique of Gothic literature is quite subdued, and I actually find immense pleasure in the overindulgence the author sometimes employs in her attempts to satirize it. Written by Austen at a tender age (though not published until the year following her death), Northanger Abbey features incredibly human, complex characters full of wit and charm. The hidden motives of seemingly delightful friends is brought to light, teaching young Catherine as well as the reader a painful lesson in real life, yet romance stands at the ready to right the wrongs of self-interest, deception, and greed. I absolutely adore this novel and everything about it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
When I read the words written by Jane Austen telling me that Catherine Morland had been in training to become a heroine I knew I was going to enjoy this novel. This book allows us a glimpse of Jane Austen as a younger woman, as a beginning novelist and as a woman with a lovely sense of humor. There isn't any denying that this book, then titled "Susan", was the first to be sold by Austen to a publisher. There it languished in some forgotten corner for thirteen years before she tried to get it back from a firm which had no intention of publishing it. Ultimately she had to borrow the money to buy her own book back. People can probably get involved in scholarly discussions as to whether or not any revisions were made to this book by Jane Austen before her death, but that's isn't what I'm interested in. I wanted to read this book because I just couldn't believe that Jane Austen had really written a book which I didn't like. At all! Thankfully, I proved myself to be both right and wrong. I completely and thoroughly enjoyed this book and am only sorry that I allowed film versions of the book to turn me away from actually reading what the author had created.
Catherine Morland became a heroine for me to love and to sympathize with, while I watched her grow and mature. At the age of seventeen Catherine is quite young to be starring in her own novel but according to the times she lived in this was a perfectly respectable age for a young woman to become a wife and mother. Up until the time Catherine was fifteen she was the epitome of a tomboy, much preferring playing games outside to learning the skills to help her in her housekeeping and marriage. When she was around fifteen she discovered novels. It was the most delightful thing to read Jane Austen's words in defense of her heroine reading novels and particularly Gothic novels. The information contained within those books colored so much of Catherine's thinking and when she is given the opportunity of having a prolonged stay in Bath with close friends and neighbors she is ecstatic. Mr and Mrs Allen will become the surrogate parents of this young woman for their stay and upon arrival Mrs Allen continually bemoans the fact that she knows nobody in Bath, therefore she and Catherine are restricted as to who they can talk to. Very quickly Mrs Allen meets a former schoolmate, Mrs Thorpe, her son and daughters, and from then on Catherine can move in society with Isabella Thorpe and later her brother John Thorpe. One process leads to another and Catherine makes the acquaintance of Eleanor and Henry Tilney along with their father Colonel Tilney. Austen uses Catherine and her new friends to demonstrate the social limits and restrictions on young women of the time. She also illustrates how easily deceit can be camouflaged as friendship.
My reading of this novel was enhanced greatly because I was sharing the experience with a friend. We discussed the novel from the viewpoint of our previous interest in the writings of Jane Austen. I must rank this book right up there with my other favorite novels now. Yes, there is melodrama. Yes, Catherine is a very young woman prone to being fooled by others. Thankfully it is also about Catherine conquering her fears caused by the melodrama by facing reality and Catherine learning to see the motives of other people more clearly.
This novel is Jane Austen at her most natural, at least it seems that way to me. She is obviously having fun with this writing, she also seems to genuinely like her heroine and the other "good" characters in the book and shows us the deceitful characters we all need to recognize and avoid. Austen seems young in thought and spirit in this writing. The prose is light and very readable. It is also a relatively short novel. I would have liked for it to be longer (of course!) but specifically because I would have liked for some of the characters, even major characters, to have been presented in fuller form. The only portion I'm definitely a little disappointed with happens in the final chapter, but I'll let you discover that for yourself. Who knows, you might not have the same reaction at all. I do highly recommend this novel as a truly great early novel from a writer who was to go on to a fame which probably would have truly surprised her. This Penguin Classic edition is a wonderful version of this novel. It contains much information aside from the novel which was a great help for me while I was reading. The Notes from each chapter by Marilyn Butler, Exeter College, Oxford, were invaluable in keeping me in the time frame of what was happening in Austen's world when this book was written. I also highly recommend this specific edition of Northanger Abbey.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Jane Austen's first completed novel is lighter and more humorous in tone than her subsequent work. It is however, as beautifully written as that later work - there was, as always with Austen, a lot of rewriting before publication, which in this case was posthumous - and it is in no sense an inferior effort.
All her novels have a sly, subversive wit, but Northanger Abbey is the one in which she employs her humour more or less throughout, although darker elements emerge as the story develops.
It is basically a satire on the Gothic novel, a genre still familiar to us through film, and makes particular reference to The Mysteries of Udolpho. You don't need to have read that to appreciate the humour; you just need to have some idea of what a Gothic story is, with its gloomy castles, secret chambers and dastardly deeds. In fact, in the episodes that take place in the abbey, the author shows herself very capable of building mystery and tension. She could have written a splendid Gothic horror.
Austen's extraordinary insight into human nature is already evident here. In chapter 5 of this book - which has more author intervention than any of her others - she presents a defence or justification of the novel as a literary form, in which she says, "...the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties...are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language". That is certainly true of Austen's own novels.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This recording is complete and unabridged and comes on 7 CDs - 8hrs 17 mins. The sound quality is excellent and Juliet Stevenson's voice is ideal to listen to for long periods of time. Catherine Morland visits Bath with her neighbours, Mr and Mrs Allen. There she becomes friendly with the Thorpes - Isabella and John. Isabella and Catherine and both keen readers of Gothic novels and love discussing them. The novel pokes fun at the genre and constantly highlights the difference between Catherine and the heroines of such novels.
When Catherine meets Henry and Eleanor Tilney the reader/listener soon sees the difference between them and the Thorpes. I found the differences between the two brothers and sisters became much more pronounced when listening to the book rather than reading it myself and the recording brought out nuances I had previously not appreciated. I laughed over some of the scenes and I cried over some towards the end. I had forgotten how very good this novel is. It has a lighter touch than all of Austen's other work - except perhaps `Pride and Prejudice'. I loved it and will be listening to it again before too long.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2000
Catherine Morland leaves her large family and travels to Bath with a wealthy older couple to experience the 'season' there. Young and naive, she falls in love with Henry Tilney, who is charmed by her lack of guile. She forms a strong friendship with Isabel Thorpe, who introduces her to the joys of the gothic novel. Catherine is spellbound, and starts to see gothic intrigue and melodrama in everything around her.
This is probably Jane Austen's easiest, least complex novel. The humour of the novel lies in Catherine's innocence, contrasted with the flirtatious machinations of her friend Isabel, to which Catherine is utterly oblivious, and her fascination with the gothic novel, which leads her to see murderers and mystery all around her. Compared to, say, Emma, or Persuasion, this is a lightweight novel which doesn't operate on very many levels. The characters don't have the same attraction as Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy. However, Austen's ability to portray people's foibles (such as in the exquisitely awful Isabel and her brother John) makes the novel thoroughly enjoyable.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2004
'Northanger Abbey' is the story of the young and naive Catherine Morland and her venture into the complexities of adult social life. It takes a tongue-in-cheek view of a girl's ideas of romance and adventure formed by reading Gothic novels, and how, with a series of very entertaining episodes that result in anti-climaxes, Catherine realises that real life is different from fiction.
In constrast with her other novels, Jane Austen's humour is rendered more in the narration than in dialogue. The strength of this novel lies in its simplicity and in its very believable characters. Catherine is not as beautiful, witty or talented as Austen's more popular heriones - Emma or Elizabeth Bennett - but she is extremely likeable. Her simplicity touches a chord and my heart went out to her whenever she was in distress, either in handling her uncouth suitor John Thorpe or being taken for a ride by her 'friend' Isabelle, or when General Tilney abruptly asks her to leave their home, Northanger Abbey.
I was so intrigued by the way the book 'The Mysteries Of Udolpho' had influenced Catherine, that I picked it up to read to know what was in it. Would recommend that book too!
'Northanger Abbey' was a very pleasant book to read; I enjoyed it immensely.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It's probably not one of Austen's best known or loved. It's not one of the most quoted or adapted. It doesn't have the idolised heroine or hero of her most famous work.
But it's pretty good, really. Austen's earliest-written work does seem more immature than her others (only by her own high standards though - I'm not suggesting it's poor). I don't find Catherine as deeply drawn as Elizabeth, Elinor, Anne or Emma. She's young, naive, easily swayed but sweet and charming in her own way.
Catherine romanticises her life, seeing herself as a heroine in a gothic novel. Part of a huge but not particularly well-off family, she takes the opportunity of an invitation to visit Bath. There she meets charismatic but deceptive Isabelle Thorpe and her forceful brother, as well as the witty and enigmatic Henry Tilney.
In the way of all classic romances, the course of true love suffers its usual bumps. Catherine excitedly takes up the offer to visit the distinctly gothic Northanger Abbey with Tilney and his sister, seeing dark deeds around her and scaring herself with her imaginings.
I found the Abbey section of the book rather short compared to the Bath scenes. More could have been made of her visit, her visions, her growing admiration and conversations with Henry.
The denouement too seems rushed and over in just one short chapter with ends neatly tied up rather too briefly and without much detail, in a style much like Pride and Prejudice but with less satisfaction.
There are witty lines galore through the book, though. Often coming unexpectedly, the style shows Jane Austen to be a future author to watch.
It has flaws but is still an entertaining and vivacious read. I re-read it a decade after first trying it in to prepare for Val McDermid's modern reimagining. It's quite a brief read, not as clever as Emma and Pride and Prejudice but fascinating to see Austen as a debut writer and an enjoyable read in its own right.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2013
This is my favourite of all Austen's works (although it comes very close to Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility)... In short, I'm an Austen fan, so perhaps this review isn't as balanced as it should be...
However, I really do think there is an awful lot to like about this book. I've just read it for the fourth time for a course on Gothic literature I am doing and I have smiled pretty much all the way through it. It comes under the heading of "gothic parody" as Austen gently mocks the heroine and her perception of herself, her situating herself as an heroine, and the embarrassment which this leads to. What I don't agree with is that it mocks the genre itself - as the hero Tilney states, he has gained a lot of pleasure from reading the "horrid" novels such as The Mysteries of Udolpho. What is being mocked is the heroine's method of reading the books - she's reading them as realistic, detailing events which are likely to occur, which, of course, they are not. It is something which the heroine, Catherine, comes to realise for herself: "Charming as were all Mrs. Radcliffe's works, and charming even as were the works of all her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for. Of the Alps and Pyrennees, with their pine forests and their vices, they might give a faithful delineation; and Italy, Switzerland, and the South of France, might be as fruitful in horrors as they were there represented. . . . But in the central part of England there was surely some security for the existence even of a wife not beloved, in the laws of the land, and the manners of the age. Murder was not tolerated, servants were not slaves, and neither poison nor sleeping potions to be procured, like rhubarb, from every druggist. Among the Alps and Pyrennees, perhaps, there were no mixed characters. There, such as were not spotless as an angel, might have the dispositions of a fiend. But in England it was not so . . . "(Austen, Northanger Abbey, vol. II, Chapter 10)
At the end of the book, when Catherine is forcibly ejected from the Abbey, the story even takes quite a Gothic turn. General Tilney, may not have murdered his wife as Catherine initially suspected, but she suffers just as much at his hands with his precipitous ejection of her from his hospitality. Catherine herself can appreciate this: "Catherine, at any rate, heard enough to feel, that in suspecting General Tilney of either murdering or shutting up his wife, she had scarcely sinned against his character, or magnified his cruelty." p. 243 There may be no wax figurines or wives imprisoned in the cloisters, but Catherine's distress is very real.
I adore this story - it is so easy to read; and if we are all guilty of seeing a little of ourselves in the heroines we read of, there is a lot of Catherine in us all. Flawed but charming, she is utterly delightful. Plus, it's free on kindle - not much not to like there.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2012
"Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at their being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them."
Catherine is 17 when she is taken by childless neighbours to spend time with them in Bath. She quickly makes friends with other people her own age, finds herself a love interest and begins to forge her way in this new society she finds herself in. As she is younger than other Austen heroines she is also more naïve, not very experienced at reading people and is sometimes rather silly.
The plot is a rather a simple one in terms of its themes and contains less minor characters than say Mansfield Park, instead it just gets on with the business of dealing with the usual `girl will eventually marry the right man after various conversations and misunderstandings' overall plot arc.
Northanger Abbey is different to the other Austen novels I have read, it's different for various reasons but mostly it's because it is a lighter and a less layered read. Northanger Abbey is known for its parody of other Gothic novels which were popular during Austin's time, although anyone who is familiar with works such as Dracula or Jane Eyre and has an understanding of the usual gothic elements could probably appreciate these parts of the novel.
"I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible."
While it might lack depth it does have two very likeable characters in both Catherine and Henry Tilney, a couple of unlikeable characters and some very funny lines and observations. The first half of the novel is set in Bath before switching the action to Northanger Abbey, this change of scenery keeps the story fresh and drives the eventual coupling of Catherine and Henry. The humor and wit in Northanger Abbey is not as subtle as other Austen's novels making the novel overall a quick, easy, sparkly read and is a great introduction to Jane Austen.