First things first – What have they done to Classic book covers these days? I had to wade back through time to find the book covers that gave the impression that at least someone involved with the books wanted to tempt readers and not bore them away.

Rant over. Let’s talk about Northanger Abbey.

“To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.”

Northanger Abbey is the story of a girl who had neither distinguishing beauty, charm nor brains in her youth. Gothic novels were the fairy godmother to the girl destined and desirous to be a heroine. So, what was lacking in setting her apart in other aspects was generously compensated by her perusal of gothic novels and an overactive imagination.

“Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it.”

I found this book to be quite different from Jane Austen’s other novels because it is a satire on gothic romance. In her clever composition, Jane Austen proposes that if you happen to read enough novels your imagination can fill in any void of mystery and adventure that you might be longing for. And, having read enough novels you will definitely want a story of your own.

“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”

Catherine Morland’s dreams come true when she gets a chance to visit the town of Bath. It is not pleasant to not know anyone while the world is dancing in balls around you. Luckily, Catherine and her party make a friend in the Thorpe family.  But, certain things in the friendship don’t seem to add up. When another new friendly family, the Tilneys, extends an invitation to their Abbey, Catherine accepts with joyful anticipation, convinced that the Abbey would hold untold mysteries. Hidden passageways, antique chests, fickle tempers; she finds its all. And in the process, manages to lose her heart and be wiser and worldlier in every regard.

“Now I must give one smirk and then we may be rational again”

Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I am authorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, and nothing in the world advances intimacy so much.”

There is no one like Elizabeth in Northanger Abbey; no Darcy, or Anne or Captain Wentworth. Not even an Emma. However, Henry Tilney is not too bad. With his teasing remarks and good-natured mockery, he adds much needed wit and life to the dialogues.

“But Catherine did not know her own advantages – did not know that a good-looking girl, with an affectionate heart and a very ignorant mind, cannot fail of attracting a clever young man, unless circumstances are particularly untoward.”

He does sum up beautifully, when he calls Catherine guile-free, eager to learn, transparent in praise and steadfast in friendship. Catherine shows a lot of conviction in a few scenes when she stood up to her friends and brother. But, the firmness of character is marred by the bouts of silly flights of fantasy, which is probably necessary to make this a gothic parody.

Isabella Thorpe as the shallow, worldly coquette is interesting. So is her almost narcissistic brother Thorpe. Under the guise of well-intentioned politeness and friendship, the art of advancing ones own prospects is expertly captured through them as the story progresses.

“If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?”

As the voice of the narrator, Jane Austen interacts with the reader more than usual. From commenting on fellow writers, to back story of side characters, to the necessity of adventure, she talks to us about it all in her characteristic charming style.

Also, if you have day dreamed about the grandeur and atmosphere of old architecture or the balls, theatre and parasol walks of Bath, then you will enjoy the lavish intricate details that Jane Austen adds to the tale.

Northanger Abbey book review is a hard one for me to write, being unthinkable that I would find something wanting in a Jane Austen novel. It is an interesting choice to tell the story of a heroine who is in no way special or memorable. Those being the exact reasons why such a story was decided upon for her to star as the heroine in.

Even though I didn’t like Northanger Abbey as much as I had expected, there is enough in the book to make for an enjoyable read for any classic fan. It also made me miss true Gothic romance, so Victoria Holt (must read if you haven’t) here I come!


Have you every cooked up a story to fit into a real world setting? Do the colours of the world around you pale in comparison to the books you read? Tell me about it.


Gothic romance reviews – Rebecca, Jane Eyre