Saturday, October 20, 2007

Northanger Abbey

I needed to read a comforting book so I turned to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, her first novel. It was the sort of thing I needed. Like Austen’s other novels, this features a young heroine and themes of marriage and money. In Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland is a young, naive woman enthralled by gothic father’s a parson and the family is middle class. She’s invited to stay with family friends in Bath, where she’s a little intimidated or by the high society and sophistication. She is very aware of what she doesn’t know. She’s out of her depths when discussing or understanding the society and the accepted take on novels and culture.

Her new friend Elizabeth invites her to Northanger Abbey, which stimulates Catherine’s active imagination. She suspects this old house will hold some dark secret behind a locked door or inside an old chest. Comically, she is always on the look out for the imagined secrets and worried that someone will find her snooping.

During this visit Catherine is in close contact with Elizabeth’s brother Henry, whom has captured her fancy. Of course, Austen includes obstacles to this love while describing other character’s more commercial love pursuits.

Not as well known as Pride and Prejudice or Emma, Northanger Abbey offers a good comfort read. It shows us Austen’s early writing and one can see how she grew in wit and sophistication.

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