Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Book Reviewed: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

In order to prove to myself that I am capable of reading books older than three years this summer, I went ahead and picked up a copy of one of the few Austen novels I haven't already read: Northanger Abbey.  Of all of Austen's books, this is the one about which I have the least amount of knowledge.  I only knew that the hero's name was Henry and that it poked fun at gothic novels.  That's it. 

I was surprised by Northanger Abbey for several reasons.  For starters, it's hilarious.  I often giggle when reading Austen, but I think this one might have all her other books beat in terms of humor.  Mrs. Allen and John Thorpe are delightfully awful people, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Also, the book's last sentence is pretty damn great.  Next, I was surprised by the way the book was organized, with two even sections - one taking place mostly in Bath and the other at the titular estate.  For some reason, I expected the Abbey to be a much larger part of the book.  Instead, half the book feels a little too much like set-up, with the Bath scenes being fun and lovely in their own way but not really doing anything for the central plot involving the Tilney family.  Finally, I was surprised by how flirtatious Henry Tilney was toward Catherine, which was adorable.  Of all of the Austen heroes I can remember encountering, Henry seems to be the most laid-back and sociable.  I liked that.

Overall, I wouldn't put Northanger Abbey at the top of my list of favorite Austen novels (Persuasion is a the very tip-top of that list, in case you were wondering).  I found the pace to be a little off and Catherine to be a surprisingly unengaging Austen heroine.  But I still enjoyed reading the book, and I think it is the funniest of Austen's oeuvre. 

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