Maia B.'s Reviews > Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
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It's not Jane Austen's best. (That's why I only gave it 4 stars.) Catherine is hopelessly naive, and Henry Tilney laughs at everyone. But it's hard to resist Catherine's innocence and her appeal, and even the superior Henry has redeeming characteristics.

In this book Jane has created two of her most awful characters ever: John and Isabella Thorpe. Of all the horrible people (Willoughby, Wickham, Henry Crawford, and William Elliot, the Villainous Quartet; Elizabeth Elliot; Lady Catherine; Lucy Steele) in the oeuvre, John Thorpe ties with Mrs. Norris for the title of Hands-Down Most Appalling, and Thorpe is the Austen man who I'd least like to marry. He's vulgar, stupid, rude, a liar, and a fool; I simply cannot stand him.

Catherine is very likable, even though she is really rather dumb. Thorpe hints broadly at their marrying, and she is off in the clouds: "Did you ever hear the old song 'going to one wedding brings on another'? And then, you know, we may try the truth of this same old song." "May we? But I never sing. Well, I wish you a good journey." She doesn't get it.

She's adorable nonetheless - imaginative (sometimes overly so), excited, young, innocent, eager to please and be pleased. It's fun to read about someone so utterly nice; she doesn't leap to easy conclusions or try to control the lives of people around her. She's fun and kind and she loves Henry.

Much of the book is a satire on the then-popular Gothic novel, which must be one of the silliest inventions ever. It's quite funny, if you know the type of novel. It's not hard to pick up the pattern. Once you do, it is a perfect skewering of the ridiculous; Austen liked Gothic novels, but clearly she understood how absurd they were.

This is also the shortest Austen. But when we leave Catherine and Henry on the altar it's hard to feel a little dissatisfied. Maybe Catherine's innocence will end up jarring on Henry's nerves, and his way of laughing at the world will annoy her.

Or maybe we should leave it in Jane Austen's hands.
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