“…every bend in the road was expected with solemn awe to afford a glimpse of its massy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with the last beams of the sun playing in beautiful splendour on its high Gothic windows…” (Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey)
I just finished reading Jane Austen’s Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey and I have to say- I really enjoyed it. Jane Austen’s writing is simple yet beautiful, touching and humorous, and romantic and inspiring.
A great deal of the situations, characters and settings seemed very real to me, pulling me further into the story. For example, one of the main settings in the story takes place in Bath, England. I could easily see this historic setting as the perfect backdrop for balls, theatres and long, scenic walks. I appreciated this sense of realism she created in Northanger Abbey because it made me more invested in the story- it felt real.
I also loved how Jane Austen “broke the fourth wall”. “Breaking the fourth wall” is a term often used in theatre, film and television when a character acknowledges the audience. This can be applied to novels as well. As the narrator she would add in a line or two, directed at the reader, about how she is supposed to follow literary conventions or about the situation of her characters.
And of course I adored the story and its characters. Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland leads an ordinary life in Fullerton, until her neighbours Mr. Allen and Mrs. Allen invite her on a trip to Bath.
In Bath, Catherine enjoys balls, theatre shows and other social outings. She meets many interesting people like the charming and clever Henry Tilney, Mrs. Allen’s childhood friend, Mrs. Thorpe, and her children, Isabella and John. She even runs into her older brother, James Morland, who is friends with John at Oxford.
Naturally, Catherine becomes friends with Isabella and John. However, Catherine also wants to spend time with Henry Tilney and his kind sister, Eleanor Tilney, who are also her friends. Both Isabella and John use their subtle yet cunning powers of persuasion to prevent Catherine from spending time with the Tilneys (the sly and vain John is competing with Henry for Catherine’s affections), but Catherine eventually stands her ground and gets an opportunity to spend time with them as well.
To her disappointment, Henry and Eleanor are about to leave Bath on their father, General Tilney’s order. Unexpectedly, she is offered an invitation from Henry and Eleanor’s father, General Tilney to stay with them for a few weeks at their home, called Northanger Abbey. She then makes the trip away from Bath to the seemingly mysterious Northanger Abbey…
I loved Northanger Abbey and found myself itching to find out what happened next. Even more, I loved Henry’s charm, wit and sense of humour, Eleanor’s sincerity and kindness, and Catherine’s naivety, innocence and wild imagination. She reminded me of myself when I was seventeen. I found myself smiling at the dramatic inner thoughts of Catherine as she over-analyzed every social situation and explored the mysterious Northanger Abbey.
I had wished for a little more romance between Henry and Catherine (the 2007 movie set my standards pretty high). Nonetheless, I would recommend this book for anyone who’s looking for a light-hearted and humourous Jane Austen read. I think this one might be on my favourites list!
What has your experience been like reading Jane Austen’s work?