Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Northanger Abbey and the History of England by Jane Austen, Read by Alison Larkin

Title: Northanger Abbey and the History of England
Author: Jane Austen
Read by:  Alison Larkin
Publisher: British Classic Audio
Length: Approximately 9 hours and 25 minutes
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com

I’ll admit, when I first read Northanger Abbey as a teenager, I wasn’t sure what to think of it.  It didn’t fit the mold of Austen’s other novels. As I’ve reread it over the years, I’ve grown to love it more and more.  It is a great satiric novel about the rise in popularity of the Gothic novel.  I can just imagine Austen and her family reading many a Gothic novel and Austen deciding it was time to make fun of the genre, which she does perfectly in Northanger Abbey.

Although it is a satire, Austen writes wonderful characters that are true to life in Northanger Abbey.  Catherine loves Gothic novels a little too much, but is able to learn her lesson through the book that Gothic novels are entertaining fiction, but woefully untrue to life.  I especially love her underlying lesson about friendship – is there more of a perfect frenemy in literature than Isabella Thorpe?  Henry Tilney is a great male character and so different than Austen’s other heroes.  He is very witty and not afraid to talk about novels or muslin.  He doesn’t put on fake airs to impress people – he is who he is.

I loved the conversation between Catherine Morland and John Thorpe.  John dismisses “novels” much to Catherine’s dismay.  In the course of their conversation it becomes very apparent that John actually does read and enjoy novels and doesn’t quite know what he’s talking about.  It was hilarious and so perfectly Jane Austen.  You can still have this conversation with people today who are dismissive of “romance,” “sci-fi,” or a variety of other genres and items that really don’t know what they are talking about.

Bath is a great location for this novel and you can feel Catherine’s excitement when she visits with the Allens and gets to be a part of the social whirl.

I have listened to Alison Larkin narrate other Austen novels and I am a huge fan.  She has a light British accent and gives the characters all of their own voices.  She is a perfect narrator for Austen novels and makes them sound just like I could imagine them sounding if they were being read aloud and acted out by the Austen family by the fire.  This edition also contains Austen’s delightful satire, A History of England, one of her juvenile writings.  This was the first time I’ve listened to it on audio and I greatly enjoyed it.

Overall, Austen is a classic author with six of the finest novels ever written. Northanger Abbey is a delightful satire of the Gothic novel that also manages to tell a great character story about the true meaning of love and friendship.


  1. Laura, I'm glad you enjoyed listening to this satirical novel, Northanger Abbey and The History of England. I have not read or listened to this, but now I am very tempted by the audio book. I think this sounds wonderful. Terrific review!

  2. I had a similar experience with NA as you did as teen.
    My recent reread was so much fun - I particularly loved the horse and carriage conversations with John Thorpe this time around - the Georgian version of a hoon talking about his hotted up car! JA's ability to lampoon certain universal character types is phenomenal.

  3. PS There's also a fabulous TV film from the 1980's that is worth checking out too, starring the late Robert Hardy.

  4. Thrilled to see this Laura. I love your blog.

  5. Thank-you all! I will be truthful - I watched the 80's version probably around twenty years ago and found it to be quite campy. I think I just couldn't get over the 80's hair in Regency England. I own it on videotape somewhere in my basement. Should I revisit it?

    1. I don't remember the hair being an issue, but campy/gothic is a pretty accurate description! But in a good way 😊 Loved the moody music & use of fog too. It's definitely worth fishing out to see what/how/if your tastes or opinions have changed. The movie may look dated now as well...?

      Good luck.