Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen


Jane Austen's first novel is a comic take-down of the Gothic novels of her time. "Our heroine" Catherine is guided in her thinking in particular by The Mysteries of Udolpho, an actual novel by Ann Radcliffe. The beginning of Northanger Abbey, quoted below, gives an idea of how it goes on:

No one who had ever seen Catherine Moreland in her infancy would have supposed her to be born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected or poor and a very respectable man though his name was Richard and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense with a good temper, and what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born, and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world as anybody might expect, she still lived on, lived to have six children more, to see them growing up around her and to enjoy excellent health herself.

Catherine's tribulations include Isabella, a silly selfish friend she meets in Bath, her brother's ill treatment at the hands of Isabella, her baseless fears (fueled by her reading) of the father of her love interest, and the father's rejection of Catherine based on misinformation he had. She was especially excited to be invited by her love interest Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor to visit Northanger Abbey as she believed it would match the Gothic novel's depiction of an ancient abbey. In the end she recognizes the treachery of the once-beloved Isabella, she understands that her romantic fantasies excited by her reading are foolish, and Henry overcomes his father's rejection of Catherine.

A very fine audiobook, read perfectly by Lynn Redgrave, made doing mundane tasks fly by.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, first published in 1817 after her death, I listened to the Silksoundbooks version of the audiobook. Available in the UVa library, public library (in print and as an audiobook), and from Amazon.

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