Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Catherine Morland is obsessed with Gothic Novels and on her first visit to Bath, with family friends Mr and Mrs Allen she finds herself obsessed with something new – love.

All of a sudden her small familiar circle is increased. She befriends Isabella Thorpe a rather self obsessed girl who enjoys the conversation with men in the pursuit of the correct marriage (more financial, than romantic). One of these chosen men actually being Catherine’s brother who she has met previously. Catherine is enamoured by Henry Tilney in a short space of time and this causes some distress to Isabella’s brother John who is enamoured by Catherine himself. What transpire are the imaginations, hopes and dreams both coming true and brought to an end of young men and women in the pursuit of happiness and love.

John (and his family) tries to put obstacles in the path of any sort of relationship between Henry and Catherine. Catherine attempts to appease and please everyone without anyone’s feelings getting hurt. A task she finds most difficult. Isabella now betrothed to Catherine’s brother, feels Catherine’s own burgeoning friendship with Henry Tilney’s sister Eleanor treacherous to their own friendship and she also tries to come between.

Catherine eventually escapes Bath and goes to stay with the Tilney’s at Northanger Abbey. Catherine thinks all her dreams of gothic novels will be played out in a place called Northanger Abbey.

The night was stormy; the wind had been rising at intervals the whole afternoon; and by the time the party broke up, it blew and rained violently. Catherine, as she crossed the hall, listened to the tempest with sensations of awe; and, when she heard it rage round a corner of the ancient building and close with sudden fury a distant door, felt for the first time that she was really in an abbey. Yes, these were characteristic sounds; they brought to her recollection a countless variety of dreadful situations and horrid scenes..

But the visit which was to be a long one is suddenly cut short when news of James having broken off his engagement with Isabella and still the vindictive behaviour of John Thorpe reaches out as far as Northanger Abbey. Despatched back home, Catherine is forlorn and love struck but then an unexpected visit changes everything…..

A neat little novel in my opinion which reflects as much of life in terms of youngsters as it did when it was published more than two hundred years ago. The settings have changed and no doubt the interests, I suppose not many young girls are obsessed with gothic novels now? But I remember being young and worrying about the boy that likes you, the boy that you like. If they smile, if they don’t and all the worries in between. Close friendships with other girls in similar situations and the unity of one sex against another. Reflections on how devious women can be in the pursuit of men.

Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.

This book made me smile and chuckle in places as Austen address the reader direct about such matters as well as the importance of the novel reflected by herself and in her characters.  How could Catherine even contemplate taking up with John Thorpe with his obvious distaste of novels;

“I never read novels; I have something else to do”

Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apologise for her question, but he prevented her by saying, “Novels are all so full of  nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Ton Jones, except The Monk; I read that t’other day; but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation.”

Any reader would have I am sure taken an immediate dislike to John, as I did. I wanted to tell Catherine never apologise for reading and enjoying novels. It keeps a great many authors in work.

Luckily Henry had different views

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

I quite agree! But then in the pursuit of men it seems Austen thought that women “especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”

This is the second Austen I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did have to perhaps concentrate a bit more, the language after all is dated. However, I am glad I have read it and it has certainly not put me off reading other Austen. I see I have a couple more on my kindle for when I feel like drifting back to another time.

I have used this book as one for my own personal 2012 challenge.