Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

When speaking of Jane Austen, it is not surprising to hear people shouting out Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, but how about Northanger Abbey? In my opinion, it is absolutely underrated. 

Northanger Abbey was originally named as Susan, and it was the first of Jane Austen's completed novels for publishing. It was published posthumously in 1818 (or December 1817). Northanger Abbey is a very warm-hearted story, I find it an absolutely youthful and light read. One can find the clues of Austen's later and maturer novels, such as Pride and Prejudice, especially how the heroines (in Northanger Abbey, the heroine is Catherine Morland) transform and grow throughout the stories, since self-knowledge and growth are always big topics in Austen's works.

The story begins at describing how average and ordinary Catherine Morland, the heroine, is. She is one of the ten children of a country clergyman and her mother is generally of "useful plain sense". Catherine is not pretty and not as witty as other heroines in other Austen's novels, which is a tad unusual to see, since almost every heroines are intelligent and pretty. When Catherine turns 15, her parents finally see a hint of agreeable change in her. She is not intelligent but not stupid, with a warm heart like her mother, and a strong sense of right and wrong, and sensitive in detecting insincerity in others. Her ordinary country life changes one day when the childless neighbours, Mr and Mrs Allen, invite Catherine to company them to a trip to Bath. The description of Bath is undoubtedly vivid and vibrant. When I was in Bath, walking pass the pump room, the image of the Morlands, Allens and Thorpes socialising and tasting the water was conjured up in my mind. 

Let's not bore you with a summary, since it is not difficult to find summary on sparknotes or goodread (or just simply google it). I find this novel underrated, since the story is fascinating. Catherine eventually realises that things in real life do not always appear as what she thinks, imagination and reality are not always connected. Catherine is constantly fascinated by Gothic novels, such as Anne Radcliffe's novels, and her imaginations are always based on the Gothic novels she has read. Henry has made a really direct comment when Catherine suspects that Henry's father might be responsible of his mother's death, which is untrue, and purely imagination. But Catherine is young and naive, I can see the teenage me in her, an adolescent girl with vivid creativity and the naiveness because of the lack of experience. Catherine learns about insincerity through her friend, Isabella Thorpe, whom is supposed to marry James, Catherine's brother, but still continue the flirtation with Henry's brother. I admire Catherine's sense of right and wrong, and she knows clearly such unfaithfulness would only bring her friend downfall. To me, Isabella is a bit spoiled but still naive, I dare to ask you whom doesn't love to be admired and flirted with? How Isabella behaves even after engaged with James is doubtlessly inappropriate, but it is difficult to teach a teenage girl, who is full of imagination, what is sincerity. They are absolutely young.

I secretly love this book and this edition is brilliant, with wonderful cover design and a favourable size of a pocket book. The weight is amazing, papers are lovely. Vintage Classic does other books in this edition as well, I can see myself collecting all of them in the future. 


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