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Northanger Abbey

There are plenty of ‘Classic Books’ I have never read for one reason or another. There are only so many hours in the day afterall. 'Classics' are typically well known and have had a lot of stuff written about them, so I'm not going to witter on. Here is the first of my super quick reviews of those I’m finally catching up with.

So, my Mum always told me not to bother with Northanger Abbey, and that there were far better Austens to be reading. At the same time, I think teenage me also heard ‘gothic parody’ and somehow got it into my head that it was a full on gothic novel. After my (failed) attempts to read Wuthering Heights, I think I probably mistakenly thought Northanger was going to be more of the same tosh and firmly resolved never to read it.

Well, putting my pride and prejudice aside (ha ha), I decided to give it a go. But was it worth bothering with, or should I have listened to my Mother?...


Don't bother

  1. The plot isn’t dazzling. If you want to know what happens, you can basically look to any of Jane Austen’s other novels. Girl meets boy, worries she isn’t good enough, there are a few misunderstandings, they get together, the end.
  2. The ending is rushed. Clearly Jane hadn’t quite got to grips with her talent for pacing (it was one of her first books).
  3. It does get a bit silly. When Catherine finally gets to Northanger Abbey, she goes off on a bit of a bizarre whimsy, convinced she’s going to discover some gothic plot or get pursued by a resident ghost. It’s supposed to be a parody of the gothic literature of the time, but it’s all a bit daft really.
Northanger Abbey

Give it a go

  1. It’s still Austen. It’s funny, and completely enjoyable if only for the subtle ways she takes the piss out of everyone and society in general.
  2. Catherine may be a little wishy washy and melodramatic, but I still think she’s more likeable than some of Austen’s other heroines (I’m looking at you, Emma).
  3. It has some brilliantly detestable characters. John and Isabella Thorpe are two of the best antagonists in all of her books. John is not only brash, rude and boring; he also resorts to practically kidnapping Catherine at one point and then lies through his teeth when asked for an explanation. Isabella is fickle and insincere, and doesn’t hesitate to throw over Catherine’s brother in favour of someone more dazzling. They are mesmerising.


Northanger Abbey is frothier and a bit sillier than her other novels, and the ending doesn’t quite do it for me. But I still enjoyed it immensely and Austen’s trademark wit is there in abundance. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is less sombre and more entertaining than Sense and Sensibility. It doesn’t touch Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion, but definitely don’t ignore it if you are an Austen fan.


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