This novel was the first to be published among the many other books written by Jane Austen. Published in 1817, the novel is constructed around Northanger Abbey, a large mansion/ famous horror, gothic house, rumoured to have ghosts lurking around with dreadful sounds hurling through the hallways at night.
The story begins with an introduction to Catherine Morland and how she didn’t understand the human kind very well. She delved deep into novels and stories of different genres but more horror and Gothic and yet couldn’t bridge the difference between a kind-hearted person and cruel person. When she was given the opportunity to stay with Mr and Mrs Allan in Bath for a while she gladly accepted. While in Bath, she meets Isabella Thorpe, who soon becomes her best friend and they soon begin chatting about books, men and other such topics. Isabella gets engaged to Catherine’s brother soon and John (a close friend of Isabella) tries to win Catherine over. However this is isn’t a success as Catherine’s interest for Mr Tilney (Henry Tilney) increases overtime. In addition, John’s brutish nature, spiked with arrogance and sardonic wit pushes her away from him.
While Catherine’s brother James goes to visit their parents regarding marriage details for him and Isabella, his soon-to-be wife begins flirting with General Tilney (Henry’s brother) this intensifies Catherine’s frustration towards Isabella. As a result their friendship becomes distant, and when Catherine is given the opportunity to visit Northanger Abbey, she gladly accepts it. Soon enough James finds out about Isabella and breaks up with her and their marriage is put off. Whilst she is at Northanger Abbey, she realises that the landlord (Henry and General Tilney’s father) had mistaken her to be an heir to a great fortune. This was definitely not true as Catherine was from a middle class family, and creates a sense of unsettlement. Soon enough Catherine starts to unravel the mysteries and secrets of the place, but she goes too far. When she is caught, there are some drastic decisions made by the father, possibly affecting her relationship with Henry.
This novel should definitely fit into the classics genre as it not only contains the rich history and traditions of Bath but also bits and pieces of the life of a person living through the 1800s. While the novel, I would say, is not a romance novel, it is enlightening to see the formation of a strong heroine, through Catherine. The interesting, monologue-like introduction to Catherine’s life and the amusing nature of the description of setting and dialogue make the novel light-hearted yet sincere and authentic.
This novel can be recommended to anyone who loves to laugh and enjoys mystery (not in a murder/ suspense way – but sort of a more genteel manner) and a minute amount of fantasy. It must be said that there are certain areas that are hard to get through, due to the Victorian Era’s rather exquisite vocabulary, but overall I would recommend it. If you enjoy delving into the wonderful world of Jane Austen’s writing, and love novels that have a gothic element to it (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and so on) you will love this book. There is also a film – 2007 version (that closely follows that book that you can watch to enhance your experience).