Author: Jane Austen
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Dates read: 19 Jan 19 – 26 Jan 18
Publication date: Dec 1817
Publisher: John Murray
Jane Austen’s first novel—published posthumously in 1818—tells the story of Catherine Morland and her dangerously sweet nature, innocence, and sometime self-delusion. Though Austen’s fallible heroine is repeatedly drawn into scrapes while vacationing at Bath and during her subsequent visit to Northanger Abbey, Catherine eventually triumphs, blossoming into a discerning woman who learns truths about love, life, and the heady power of literature. The satirical novel pokes fun at the gothic novel while earnestly emphasizing caution to the female sex.
I am a self-confessed Classics disliker, and I won’t lie to any of you, Austen was near the top of the list. OK, so I had only read Pride and Prejudice but I found it slow, fairly boring, and difficult to read language wise. I picked up Northanger Abbey, well downloaded Juliet Stevenson’s narration, because I wanted to give another Austen novel a go and had hear that this one was slightly different.
Firstly, and probably most surprisingly, I found the book to be OK. My reading style is that of a speed reader, so physically reading the book is often difficult with classics. The word order often trips my eyes up and I end up getting frustrated before I take into account anything in the actual story. The narration was really good, enjoyable, clear, at points amusing, and really changed how much I enjoyed the reading experience of a classic alone.
I think deep down I know that Austen is not my bag. I can appreciate the delicacy of the stories, and listening to the narration allowed me to hear some of the more amusing and comedic elements, but overall not enough happens for me to be really invested. There were moments in this book, such as Mr. Tilney telling Catherine a story of gothic horror about Northanger Abbey itself, or his amusement when her naivety clouds her judgements or the meaning of another’s sentence, where I did enjoy it and I will confess to laughing a couple of times, but there still wasn’t enough action for me.
Catherine Morland is naive in the extreme, but I quite enjoyed seeing the complex world of advantageous marriages, wealth, dances through her rose tinted eyes. She was oblivious to the intent of many of the characters, and even though she felt the fickleness of Isabella and the brash crassness of Mr. Thorpe, she attempted to see the good in those around her and really did fight to follow her heart and believe in the best. It was a pleasant although obvious conclusion that she ended up with the best character in the book, Mr. Tilney, who played on her naivety with jovial amusement, who offered her safety and security and also secured a strong friendship for Catherine and his sister – who herself was genuine and great.
Reading this has simultaneously changed and cemented how I feel about Austen. Yes, I did relatively enjoy it, probably a bit more that I thought I would, but it showed me that I really don’t care for the genre/style of Austen’s work and what was popular in the time. I don’t want to strive to read something I won’t enjoy, but I am very glad to have read an Austen that I actually quite liked.