Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s often overlooked first novel accepted for publication in 1803. Sadly the publisher decided not to publish it at that time, but it was ultimately published after her death. It is most often referred to as Austen’s “gothic novel parody.” While it is a humorous parody of the gothic novels of the day, I find Northanger Abbey much more than just a parody. Northanger Abbey is also a comedy of manners and matches Austen’s other novels great characters and romance.
Catherine Morland travels with family friends, the Allens, to Bath. At first life in Bath is anything but exciting, but then she meets the engaging Henry Tilney. Afterwards Mrs. Allen’s friends, the Thorpes, come to town and Catherine soon befriends Isabella Thorpe. Life is great fun in society now that Catherine has the Tilneys and Thorpes to spend time with. Soon she is invited by General Tilney (Henry’s father) to visit the family at Northanger Abbey. Catherine hopes that the Abbey will include all of the mystery that her favorite gothic novels detail.
As I listened to this audiobook, I realized that my favorite thing about the novel was Austen’s fantastic characters. I love Henry Tilney and his quick wit. I also love how he is a great reader and is proud to talk about it. I thought about it and decided that of all of the Austen heroes, my husband most resembles Henry Tilney. I told him my observation and I think he has decided I may have read one too many Austen novels!
Isabella Thorpe and her brother John are also great characters. I love how Isabella is a “fake friend” who pretends to care about Catherine, but is really all about number one. Her brother John is also very full of himself. As with all of Austen’s novels, these characters are timeless and are people that you would meet and befriend today. I have known many Isabella and John Thorpes in my life.
One of my other favorite aspects of the novel is how clueless or naive Catherine is at points, especially when John Thorpe is trying to express his admiration for her and she totally doesn’t get it. It made me laugh out loud.
I have read Northanger Abbey a few times in my life (see a review here), but this is my first time listening to it via audiobook. I really think Austen’s novels transfer well to audiobook. They contain a lot of great dialogue that is a joy to listen too. I started my Northanger Abbey audiobook adventure by listening to a Blackstone Audiobook, but disc 2 was too scratched to listen further so I returned it to the library and switched to a Tantor Media edition read by Donada Peters. Truthfully Ms. Peters was an uninspired audiobook reader and the quality of the recording was not that great.
Overall Northanger Abbey is often overlooked, but it is not an underperforming Austen novel. If you love Austen’s other novels, you will be sure to love Northanger Abbey.
Northanger Abbey is my fifth item for both The Classics Challenge and The Everything Austen Challenge II.
Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library