I bought Northanger Abbey as one of the Popular Penguins series. I had seen the television miniseries and thoroughly enjoyed it, with its parody of the Gothic novel.
Catherine, a young lady with not much fortune but an appetite for Gothic novels and a wild imagination, goes to Bath with friends. There she meets Mr Henry Tilney and falls instantly in love with him. She also meets Isabella, who becomes a close friend. Isabella’s brother, John, falls for Catherine but she finds him odious in comparison with Mr Tilney. Isabella then becomes engaged to Catherine’s brother, but this is broken off when Catherine finds someone with a better fortune. Catherine leaves Bath to stay with the Tilneys at Northanger Abbey, where she romanticises many Gothic elements about her room and the deceased Mrs Tilney. She is then sent home in mistaken disgrace due to malicious gossip from John but everything is soon righted.
I enjoyed this, in particular the parody of the Gothic elements (the mysteriously dead wife and the secrets in the bedroom at Northanger Abbey) and that there were some truly awful characters in Isabella and John. There’s a lot of bite to this novel, it’s not just sweetness, pretty gowns and perfect romances. Austen pokes a lot of fun at her ‘heroine’ (as she often calls Catherine) and at her overdramatic and silly nature. (She is only 17 after all). Henry has a lot of insight into Catherine’s character and is the balance that she desperately needs.
I would have been interested to find out the ultimate fate of John and Isabella – did they get what they deserved?
Read it if: you like your classics with some bite