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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen //Book Review// This may not be a popular sentiment with Jane Austen fans but I will honestly admit that Northanger Abbey is "not my cup of tea". This assessment may surprise those of you who know of my often professed love and appreciation for Jane Austen's other works. I will unabashedly claim my adoration of Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice, however, I can not state the same for Northanger Abbey. I felt as though I was slowly trudging through snow, uphill, while I tediously read this novel. I am glad that I read it and was also happy when it was over. I did appreciate Austen's wit and humor but could not help feeling like I was trapped inside a string of "inside jokes" that I just didn't get! Despite my lack of understanding of many of the cultural references of the day (including a lengthy list of Gothic novels of the time), Austen successfully weaves a variety of interesting themes throughout the novel. The themes include: the role of the heroine (in both the novel and in life), novel reading, naivety, youth, wealth, social status, misunderstandings and maturity.

Unlike heroines of the novels of the day, Catherine Morland is a simple, naive, innocent, sweet-natured, middle-class girl of seventeen. She loves to read Gothic novels which impact her perception of how she views a variety of events in her life ultimately troubling her separation of fact from fiction. Like the heroines of Austen's other novels, Catherine ultimately develops into a discerning young woman. She desires happiness and doing what is right which is contrasted by many of the other character's desire for material wealth and social position.

Northanger Abbey is considered a "Gothic parody" as Austen satarizes the novels that were popular at the time she was writing. I think it is important to delineate her parody of the Gothic novel from the importance of reading. Austen is clear in her support of reading and education. She is also the queen of satire as she pokes fun at society's misgivings. 

It is understood that Austen wrote the original manuscript for this novel in 1798-1799, sold it for publication in 1803 (it was not published - for details see my earlier blog post), her brother Henry purchased it back from the publisher, Austen made more revisions and the novel, renamed Northanger Abbey was published with Persuasion after her death.

What is your opinion of Northanger Abbey? Is it one of your favorite or lesser favorite Jane Austen novel?

Book Details:

  • Publisher: Penguin Red Classics
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141028132
  • Format: Paperback; Out-of-print

 

 

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