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Title: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
In this story, Catherine Morland is a young lady who has no very special traits that would distinguish her from any other girl. She likes to be outdoors; she dislikes serious reading and adores gothic novels; she is utterly naïve. When Catherine’s close neighbors go to Bath, she is invited to accompany them. She enjoys her introduction into city life, and meets a man whom she comes to admire. His name is Henry Tilney and he has a sister, Eleanor, who befriends Catherine. Catherine is invited to stay with Eleanor for a visit at the family’s home–Northanger Abbey. The visit is encouraged by Henry and Eleanor’s father, General Tilney, because he believes Catherine to be a good match for his son. When he finds out that Catherine is in fact not rich, he kicks her out of the house to make her own way home.
This is a relatively short and unique book by Jane Austen. Though it’s not my favorite work of hers, I appreciate the wit and social commentary that went into it. There are themes which are still applicable today, though you could probably say that about all of her works.
Woven throughout this narrative, there is almost continual irony used to criticize social norms. We also see Catherine coming of age as she falls in love with Henry. Finally, Austen comments on the silliness of being obsessed with Gothic novels and all of the flights of fancy which ensue. Catherine’s imagination, when it comes to concocting Gothic story lines to explain real-life situations, is something to marvel at. She finally comes to see that her daydreaming can be hurtful and foolish, when she imagines a dramatic cause of death for one the story’s characters.
I’d say that Henry Tilney is one of my favorite male characters from Austen’s novels. He seems more approachable and down-to-earth than many of her other leading males. Henry is a guy you could expect to meet on the street, unlike Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley.
If you’re looking for an easier way to ease into reading Jane Austen, this would be the book to start with. I highly recommend this book as a fun, quick read in the classical literature genre.
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars
Until next time…
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