Oxford University Press
Hardback Edition (1975)
Introductions by her nephew (couldn't find his name)
ISBN 0 19 254705 4
As a Jane Austen fan, I am ashamed to say that I had not read this before; and now that I have, I wish I had read it sooner. Northanger Abbey follows the escapades of Catherine Morland through Bath, Northanger Abbey, and back home in Fullerton (no, I hadn't heard of it either). Of course, romance and society is involved, but there are some qualities that make Northanger unique, that are not present so much in Austen's other novels. However, this book contains the authoress' characteristic wit, social commentary through her outrageous individuals, and a wealth of delectable quotes.
Although it might not be her most famous, Northanger is nonetheless wickedly witty and inventive. Such dowds and idiots as Mrs. Allen appear, who might be well-intentioned but also keep assuming, hour after hour, that someone will eventually join them at a party. Isabella Thorpe, Catherine's older and rather flighty friend, would be the irritating, ditzy, and promiscuous girl in high school, if she was around today. John Thorpe, Catherine's dense suitor, sweetly and stubbornly pursues her with a determination that almost drives one to madness. These are complimented by other, equally entertaining characters, all of whom are so exquisitely flawed and such perfect characticures that one must wonder whether they are drawn from people Austen knew. I, for one, always envisioned her sitting in a parlor and smirking to herself while scratching away, but that is mere conjecture, and besides the point.
These other individuals would make this story worthwhile, but that is not even mentioning Henry Tilney or Catherine herself. Mr. Tilney, Catherine's love interest, is one of Austen's heros that the reader actually gets to know, unlike the distant Darcy. As the book continues, one even comes to like him, to appreciate his droll humor and gentle teasing. I was desparate for Catherine to end up with this guy. As for Catherine, one gets the impression that unlike the clever, sophisticated heroines that usually grace Austen's books,she is less mature and grown-up than Elenor or Elizabeth. Indeed, she is only seventeen, and she posseses all the naivete of that age. Her overactive imagination (she imagines she is being stalked at Northanger) and her booklust (she and Isabella spend hours talking about Gothic literature)are endearing and charming and outright fun. I'm not going to spoil the plot for you, so I will just leave it at saying that these characters would make the book brilliant even if it had nothing else going for it - and it does.
To quote (or at least paraphrase) Henry Tilney, "Anyone, be it gentleman or lady, who has not enjoyed a good book must be intolerably stupid." Well said - so run out and read Northanger Abbey so that you won't be one of them.