Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Name of Book: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

ISBN: 0-451-52636-8

Publisher: Signet classic

Type of book: Regency, 1790s?-1800s? Bath, vacation,  young adult, Gothic parody, England, pretenses

Year it was published: 1818


The most sprightly and satirical of Austen's novels, Northanger Abbey is both a comedy of manners and a cautionary tale. Written when the author herself was in early twenties, the novel takes for its heroine seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland, a spirited young woman preoccupied with the pleasures of dressing, dancing, and reading sensational novels. When she is on a visit to the fashionable spa town of Bath, Catherine's naive charm makes her prey to the sinister influences of the ambitious Thorpe family. But she is rescued by handsome Henry Tilney for a visit to his ancestral home, Northanger Abbey, where Catherien's choice of reading material comes back to haunt her. The rambling house full of locked doors and the family's mysterious history give rise to dreadful suspicions, and finally only Catherine's sweet nature and good humor can once again rescue her from peril. A sly commentary on the power of literature and also a warning for women against too much innocence. Northanger Abbey is a fresh and funny tale of one yougn woman receiving, as Margaret Drabble reveals in her illuminating introduction, "intensive instruction in the ways of the world."


Catherine used to be a tomboy but then became a lady and sought out friendship of other women. She loves reading sensational novels by Ann Radcliffe, and is also naive. (Imagine a character who believes horror or fantasy movies are real...) The other characters seemed to be nothing but caricatures, especially Mrs. Allen who is repetitious and for me was frustrating. Up until the end I couldn't decide if Isabella was being honest or was saying things for dramatic purpose, and I didn't like James. I liked Henry and personally wished to see more of his point of view.


If you're too naive, you'll get in trouble.


This is from third person narrative, primarily from Catherine's point of view. Perhaps for me it was more of a period piece rather than anything, thus I couldn't enjoy it and found it boring. I wanted to like it, but couldn't. Just like Dickens the author took a lot to say, and I couldn't understand importance or the jokes or whatnot in the book. I think in order to enjoy classics one needs to be well versed in everything or perhaps a class that will help one enjoy novels. I am sorry that I didn't like them.

Author Information:

Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775, in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, where her father was rector. She was the seventh child in a boisterous family of six boys and two girls. Reading and playacting were favorite family pastimes, and Austen began writing as a young girl. Her Juvenilia, writen between 1787 and 1795, survive in three notebooks and include Lady Susan, a short novel-in-letters. In 1796 she completed another epistolary novel called Elinor and Marianne, later revised to become Sense and Senbility. In 1797 she finished the first version of Pride and Prejudice, called "First Impressions". Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written in 1798 or 1799 as "Susan."

Until 1801, when her father retired and the family moved to Bath, Austen enjoyed a comfortable life, mixing in the best society in the neighborhood, keeping a carriage and a pair of horses, and attending dances at the stately homes of the local gentry. Neither she nor her sister Cassandra married, but the reasons for this remain conjectural, as Cassandra burned or censored Austen's surviving letters after her death. The eight years following the move from Steventon were evidently unsettled and unhappy ones. The Watsons, her only writing from this period, was never completed. But from 1809, when settled again in her beloved Hampshire, until her final illness in 1817, she lived a productive life in a pleasant cottage in Chawton provided by her wealthy brother Edward.

 In 1811 Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously: the title page stated only that it was "by a lady." Immediately successful, this first novel was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Mansfield Park in 1814. Emma, written between 1814 and 1815, was "respectfully deidcated" at royal command to George IV. In 1816, already in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised "Susan" into Northanger Abbey. Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18th, 1817. Austen's identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her favorite brother, Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1818.


Once more, few years back I enjoyed reading this book, as well as laughing. While intellectually I understand that its a funny book, my neuron receptors couldn't connect the humor to the actual muscles to cause me to laugh. For me personally this is a more understandable Jane Austen novel; it's not dense and I could understand a lot, but it does require knowledge and whatnot to fully enjoy it. I'm beginning to feel that classic literature and I are complete opposites. The book had youthful and vital energy about it and its a pity that my feelings toward it changed so much. I have to admit that the writing and prose as well as detail really have bored me and more than once I was tempted to skip the paragraphs to "get it over with".

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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