Book List 2012 · Book Review · Fiction · Jane Austen

Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The past week was eventful -in a good way. I completed Northanger Abbey as well as Persuasion and enjoyed them both immensely. In fact, I found that I appreciated and understood Persuasion a lot better than I had when I’d read it for the first time last January.

I first began with Northanger Abbey and Catherine, the heroine, was so amusing and her character so easy for me to relate to. There were times I was grateful that it wasn’t possible to go back in time and be 17 again. Even though many parts of this book reminded me of myself at 17 I was still very sorry when I reached its end. So to prolong the wonderful sensation that accompanies a good book I dove right into Persuasion and the story of another heroine that was easy to relate to though in a different way. Now, I wish that I could begin convincing you to read both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, but I probably won’t be able to hold your attention for that long. So in today’s post I’ll be doing my best to convince you to read Northanger Abbey alone for a start.

After having just completed Emma what struck me most when I began Northanger Abbey was the way Catherine is described as average and without the makings of your usual heroine. At 10, Catherine Morland is described as a girl who preferred cricket to dolls and who liked nothing better than rolling down the grassy slope behind their home. She was never outstandingly good in either her studies or extra activities like playing the piano. And since her parents were kind and didn’t believe in forcing their children to grow up a certain way with defined skills, Catherine grew up the way she was – not extraordinarily smart or in anyway especially impressive.

Catherine is an ordinary honest, kind, innocent, sweet-natured girl, and almost pretty at 15. By 15 she begins to take an interest in her looks and takes pains to improve them. It is also around this time that she begins reading novels that largely contribute to her active imagination and her training in becoming a heroine. The only disappointment in Catherine’s life is the lack of excitement in Fullerton. So you can imagine what a lovely surprise it is to her when Mr. and Mrs. Allen, good friends and neighbours of the Morlands, invite Catherine to accompany them to Bath for a few weeks. Catherine is delighted with the prospect of finally being faced with excitement that may include a handsome stranger and in short, all the adventure that the novels she reads contains. And so begins Catherine’s journey to growing up and as we say, discovering the real world.

I mainly enjoyed reading this book for its humour. I coudn’t stop laughing at some of the things Jane Austen made her characters say and do. It was especially amusing to read her serious thoughts beneath their usual cloak of wry humour. I can’t stop being amazed at the way she actually shows her reader the entire picture.The changes in the characters are subtle and seen through the eyes of Catherine. There’s a time when only the reader can see a true portrait of the characters, but only because the reader isn’t 17 and as naive as Catherine. In my opinion, any person with a well functioning imagination would enjoy reading the book a million times more than taking the supposed shortcut by watching the movie.

Even though Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen’s first book, it wasn’t published until much later when the publishers realised that this was the same author of the best selling books, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. Most critics consider Northanger Abbey lacking in comparison with Austen’s later books. But for a non professional book addict like me, along with Persuasion, Northanger Abbey is my favourite of Jane Austen’s books. This is the perfect book to read when in a jam for time. Only a 170 pages long, this book can easily be completed in a single sitting. I also had the feeling that Northanger Abbey might be Austen’s least complicated novel, even with its serious undertones. But being an unprofessional literary critic, I’m probably not the best judge on matters like that.

I imagine this book can be enjoyed by anyone. Because although Northanger Abbey is mostly known as a well-told coming of age story of a young girl, there’s so much more to this book that makes its readers want to press it into the hands of friends, family, and anyone else willing to read it.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

  1. I found it interesting to note that you connected with Anne Eliott from Persuasion for her character is one that I can relate to the most, as contrasted with the millions of fans who adore the smart and lucky Elizabeth Bennet.

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    1. Elizabeth Bennet is one of the most lively heroines I’ve ever read and she is fun to read about. But I can’t help liking Anne more. It’s not because I imagine that my character is similar to hers because she is way more patient and forbearing than I can ever hope to be. I think it has more to do with the idea that if she were a real person she would be one of the nicest people to know.

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  2. That is exactly why I really love and respect Anne from Northanger Abbey and Elinor from S&S most. If they were real, that’s a pretty appetising thought, I would totally love to “make and acquaintance” with them 😉

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