A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.
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.
Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.
As a Jane Austen fan, Northanger Abbey was a must read for me. Extraordinarily, I watched the movie before reading the novel, which had an impact on my reading experience. I found that the movie had several differences with the novel, good and bad ones. I was confused with the story when I was reading, because Catherine's departure from Northanger Abbey is much different in the movie than it actually is. I thought it was very dramatic in the movie, which wasn't a bad thing, but Catherine's sadness towards Henry felt a bit overboard in the book. I'm happy that there was a bit more romance in the movie, because the last chapters of the book left me wanting much more than I actually got. Having read many of Austen's novels, I knew I couldn't expect very explicit romance, but I hated the fact that the last chapters described what happened, instead of the characters talking for themselves. I thought it was very prude, even for Jane Austen, so I had to imagine what I saw in the movie instead.
I loved Catherine's character, because although she isn't the smartest one ever created, she's kind and really sweet. I liked how much importance she accordes to her friendships, especially with Eleanor, with whom she shared an amazing friendship, especially in such a period. I hadn't imagine it would be possible to have such a close friend with their cold politeness and good manners, but I was surprised to find Catherine and the Tilneys getting along so well. I wish I could've been in Catherine's place, in such beautiful houses with such amazing friends. However, her curiosity and immature ideas made me cringe a lot, especially when she imagines all this scheme with General Tilney. I was prepared for it, after having seen the movie, but I still hated how bold she acts and how she gets caught by Henry.
Since this is Jane Austen's first novel, I could see some faults in her writing and plot that I would've changed, but I still think this is a great first novel. I'm not a fan of Catherine's fears and love for mystery, but I guess it's part of the story. I really liked both the movie and the novel.