4 Nov 2014

Review - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Title: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Rating: 5/5 stars 

Synopsis: The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

My thoughts: This is a story of lady meets gentleman. The lady in question likes reading gothic novels and the gentleman’s father owns an abbey that could easily be the set of one of the lady’s beloved tales. Perfect match, isn’t it? Seems so, but what if the Abbey turns out to be not nearly as pleasant a place as the lady thought it would be? What if the gentleman belongs to a peculiar family with a past that some members of the kin cannot bury?

Northanger Abbey could be divided into two parts set-wise. The first part of the novel takes place in Bath, to where our heroine Catherine Morland accompanies family friends and where she expects to spend a joyful time. And indeed, she soon gets acquainted with two families, each of which provides her with one friend and one suitor. In this first half of the book there’s an awful lot of talk about gigs and bonnets, but don’t worry, dear reader, Jane Austen is that kind of an author, who can make a conversation about ladies’ attire interesting.

The second part of Northanger Abbey is set in the Abbey itself – here Miss Austen reaches back to gothic novel traditions and shakes the reader’s spirit up a bit: if you get to the chapter where the journey to the Abbey starts, then it’s time to bid adieu to the ‘rosy’ part of the story. The nights grow longer and a hunt for the truth begins. But will the search around the house give Catherine satisfaction?

All in all, Northanger Abbey is a really entertaining tale. What I enjoyed the most in it were the gothic elements, the dark and at times creepy-crawly nature of the story-telling in the second half of the text. The main character Catherine is a lovely young lady, but since she’s young she’s quite naïve – oh well, who wasn’t at seventeen? As for the other characters, I was a bit irritated by Mrs. Allen as well as Mr. Thorpe. Unfortunately, the ending was spoiled for me – thanks mom! – but I liked it nonetheless as well as the whole of the novel.

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