Monday, May 27, 2013

Northanger Abbey

Book: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Description: 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? (from

My Thoughts: I incredibly enjoyed reading Northanger Abbey. It was satirical and hilarious, and often had me laughing out loud. Austen is a fantastic satirist of literary cliches as well as human nature. Even though I have never read a Gothic novel, I recognized many of the cliches that she satirized because they are still in use today. So much for new and modern ideas, eh? 

I must say that I love satirical, sarcastic books, which Northanger Abbey definitely is! Austen's satirical characters may not have been as great and memorable as characters in some of her other books, but there were still plenty (such as the General--he was my favorite annoying character by far in this novel). I also really love socially awkward scenes, and there were some great ones.

Catherine was a good main character. She grew a lot through the book, and I liked her. I saw a lot of myself in her. Mr. Tilney came across as almost too perfect: he behaved honorably through the entire book, and had a great sense of humor to boot (perhaps he was a bit too cutting?).

Perhaps what I thought was the most important message of Northanger Abbey is that what we read shapes us: who we are, the friends we make and the people we like, what we think about, how we view the world. Catherine's choice of melodramatic novels to read means that she is always seeing tragic and murderous plots and romantic events, when the reality is quite different. What we spend our time doing and the intellectual (or not intellectual) products that we consume--whether it is reading, watching TV, playing computer games, or anything else--shapes who we are. That is why it is so important, as Christians and as human beings, to think very carefully about what we do with our time. How is it affecting us? What does it make us think about?

A fun read, but with plenty of deeper meaning if a discerning reader looks closely. Recommended!

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