Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Last year I took part in Advent with Austen but only managed to read four of Jane Austen’s wonderful novels. To be honest, I was starting to feel a bit Austened out and was thankful when the month was over and I could pick up a completely different type of book. This year, on the lead up to Halloween, I was looking for a slightly spooky read, perfect for cuddling up with in the evenings, and from my first reading of Northanger Abbey a few years ago, I thought it was just the thing!

My second reading of Northanger Abbey didn’t engage my interest as much. I remember the book being full of tension and creepiness. Instead, the ‘creepy’ parts are rather silly, which I’m sure is the point, showing the ‘heroine’s’ naivety and over active imagination. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the same feel from the book, but still enjoyed the read, even if it was a bit slow. 

Catherine is not the ideal heroine for a book, which Austen reminds the reader on more than one occasion. She’s still quite a likeable character, even though she comes across as a bit dim. After a promising first few chapters, Northanger Abbey potters along repetitively. An unnecessary amount of time is spent in Bath, where Catherine meets the man of her dreams and a new best friend. The reader can immediately see that her ‘best friend’ Isabella is materialistic, selfish and very good at manipulating both men and women – Catherine unfortunately learns this the hard way. I think it’s the relationship with Isabella that saves the book, because it makes you feel protective towards our unlikely heroine, who otherwise isn’t terribly interesting.

The love interest in Northanger Abbey is Mr. Henry Tilney, who I remember being charming and funny, but now find annoyingly sarcastic and patronising. Unlike Austen’s other novels, there is a real lack of romance, even towards the end. Apart from the odd bit of gentle teasing here and there, the interaction between Catherine and Mr. Tilney is dull. Where is all the passion that we see in Austen’s other novels? There isn’t even an entertaining side story to keep you glued to the seat.

It’s always interesting to re-read a book and see it from a different view point. Although I found Northanger Abbey to be a bit slow paced and repetitive, I still enjoyed it as a lazy Sunday afternoon read, even if it didn’t keep me up at night, desperate to get to the end.

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20 thoughts on “Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

  1. I just loved the idea that an ordinary girl must manage the ordinary struggles of life; she has to cope with the new best friend who is using her and a snobby gate keeper who treats her appallingly when he finds she is not as rich as she might like. Hey I’ve just begun my own Austen blog. Check it out


    • Thanks for the comment and link to your blog (I’ll be sure to check it out!) You’re right about the ordinary girl and her ordinary struggles. The thing I liked most about this book was the relationship between Isabella and Catherine!


  2. Northanger Abbey was written largely as a satire on the gothic novels (Castle of Otranto, Mysteries of Udolpho, etc). The repeitious nature, faux creepiness, and silliness of (for example) the heroine falling asleep at a pivotal moment are designed to make the reader laugh.

    Pride and Prejudice this book was not, but nor was it meant to be – so, and this is just my opinion, I wonder if this review is a little harsh?


    • I don’t think the post was particularly harsh – more just my thoughts on why I didn’t like it as much as the other Austen novels I have read. I suppose I had hoped to enjoy the book in the same way I did the first time, when I actually did find it a bit creepy (maybe I had an over active imagination when I was younger! 🙂 )


      • There is always something sad when you re-read a book and its not quite as good as you remember. Over active imagination? Let’s hope there’s no such thing – we can always do with more imagination I think.


  3. I read this one sometime last year, and really enjoyed it. I definitely agree with you about it’s not being “re-readable” — once you read it once and finally “get” what Austen is trying to say, the tension is broken and it comes off as rather silly. Which is, of course, another part of Austen’s point. 🙂


    • Haha! Yes, I think that was my problem. I first read it when I was quite young and it all went completely over my head (but I really enjoyed it anyway!) And I went into the re-read expecting to feel the same as I did the first time, but this time seeing all the silliness instead! It just wasn’t what I was expecting.


      • I went into my first reading not really knowing much about the story; I had heard it was poking fun at “sensational” stories, but I still spent most of my time on the edge of my seat, not exactly sure what was happening. Glad to see you enjoyed the second read at least a little. 🙂


  4. Interesting! I don’t really know much about this Austen book. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it! I really loved Emma but wasn’t so keen on Pride and Prejudice, although it was still an interesting enough read.


    • I haven’t read Emma yet. I’ve heard some people hate it and some people love it! I’m hoping to love it. There always seems to be a bit of discussion about which Austen book is the best (I can’t decide between Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility!) I suppose everyone has different tastes.

      I’ll let you know how I get on with Emma when I read it! Don’t be put of by what I said about Northanger Abbey – it’s just not my sort of thing!


    • I also love Jane Austen’s sense of humour, in this book as well as her others. Unfortunately this one just didn’t interest me as much – I felt that there was something missing… Can’t love them all I suppose!


  5. I feel I ought to read some more Austen, or other classics, but there’s so much good stuff around that is more my cup of tea! Well done for reading it again. Always enjoy reading your reviews!


  6. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m quite curious about it after reading The Mysteries of Udolpho. I had hoped to read it this past October. As you can see, I failed. Next October!


    • It’s definitely worth a read and especially if you’ve read The Mysteries of Udolpho. I think you’ll get a lot more out of it than me. What did you think of it? Do you think it’s worth me reading it?


    • I’ve read most of Austen’s novels now (just got Emma to go!) I really enjoyed all the others, but this one is definitely my least favourite so far. I suppose I can’t love them all!


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