It’s been a while since I finished this novel, but I figured I would still write a review because I absolutely adored it. I’ve read five Austen novels so far, including this one, the others being Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Persuasion. Northanger Abbey is Austen’s fifth novel and was published posthumously in 1818. Want to see why I think you should read it?
As this book is on the Penguin English Library list, it is also the sixth book I’ve read for my Penguin English Library Challenge (PELC). You can check out the other books here.Title | Northanger Abbey
Author | Jane Austen
Published | 2014 (originally 1818)
Language | English
Pages | 304
Goodreads | ★★★★★
BookDepository | paperback editionSummary
Catherine Morland is a young girl with a very active imagination. Her naivety and love of sensational novels lead her to approach the fashionable social scene in Bath and her stay at nearby Northanger Abbey with preconceptions that have embarrassing and entertaining consequences. (Goodreads)First sentence:
No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.
Not as famous as the first sentence of Pride & Prejudice, but still pretty well known. I love how on each of these Vintage Classics editions of Austen novels there is a quote on the back of the book!
One of the first things I noticed is that Austen is much more present as a narrator than in her other novels. As omniscient narrator she comments on events and persons and even briefly on reading and writing in 19th century England. The novel was quite the new genre and some people thought it popular and not really sophisticated, but Austen commented that it is
in short, “only” some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.
Go Austen!O, and can we take a moment to appreciate these beautiful endpapers? All the Vintage Classic editions of Austen’s novels have these. It’s exactly the same pattern as is used for the cover of Emma by the way. I’m a sucker for details like that …
… and her spirits danced within her, as she danced in her chair all the way home.
Pride & Prejudice was my first Austen love and I guess it kind of is still my favourite. Yes, I’m sure it is. I connect with Elizabeth so well: I love her as a character and I can identify with her very easily. However, when reading Emma I came to appreciate Austen’s wit and subtle sarcasm even more and Persuasion was a total surprise to me. I did not expect to love it so much. I think only Sense & Sensibility isn’t as much loved by me as the others (although I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads, so don’t get me wrong – it a good novel!). It just didn’t stay with me as the others did.
I think it was because I’ve read four other Austen novels already that I enjoyed Northanger Abbey so much. Catherine is a lovable character and her youthful enthusiasm proved infectious. The supporting characters were also very well done. I especially loved Lady Allan (she reminded me a tiny bit of Mrs Bennet!), Isabelle (though she isn’t nice at all) and Henry’s sister. I literally read this novel with a grin on my face throughout.
And now I may dismiss my heroine to the sleepless couch, which is the true heroine’s portion; to a pillow strewed with thorns and wet with tears. And lucky may she think herself, if she get another good night’s rest in the course of the next three months.
I think Northanger Abbey would be a really good place to start if you haven’t yet read anything by Austen. (Persuasion would be a good choice as well, by the way.) It’s relatively short, very funny and because the main character is quite young I think it will appeal to younger readers as well.
I would like to conclude with this quote by Henry:
The person, be it a gentleman or a lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Have you read Northanger Abbey? Or any other Austen novel?