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Northanger Abbey [Paperback]

Jane Austen , Robert Kiely
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 8 2002 0375759174 978-0375759178 New edition
Jane Austen’s first novel, Northanger Abbey—published posthumously in 1818—tells the story of Catherine Morland and her dangerously sweet nature, innocence, and sometime self-delusion. Though Austen’s fallible heroine is repeatedly drawn into scrapes while vacationing at Bath and during her subsequent visit to Northanger Abbey, Catherine eventually triumphs, blossoming into a discerning woman who learns truths about love, life, and the heady power of literature. The satirical Northanger Abbey pokes fun at the gothic novel while earnestly emphasizing caution to the female sex.

This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the first edition of 1818.

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Though Northanger Abbey is one of Jane Austen's earliest novels, it was not published until after her death--well after she'd established her reputation with works such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. Of all her novels, this one is the most explicitly literary in that it is primarily concerned with books and with readers. In it, Austen skewers the novelistic excesses of her day made popular in such 18th-century Gothic potboilers as Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers all figure into Northanger Abbey, but with a decidedly satirical twist. Consider Austen's introduction of her heroine: we are told on the very first page that "no one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine." The author goes on to explain that Miss Morland's father is a clergyman with "a considerable independence, besides two good livings--and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters." Furthermore, her mother does not die giving birth to her, and Catherine herself, far from engaging in "the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush" vastly prefers playing cricket with her brothers to any girlish pastimes.

Catherine grows up to be a passably pretty girl and is invited to spend a few weeks in Bath with a family friend. While there she meets Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor, who invite her to visit their family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Austen amuses herself and us as Catherine, a great reader of Gothic romances, allows her imagination to run wild, finding dreadful portents in the most wonderfully prosaic events. But Austen is after something more than mere parody; she uses her rapier wit to mock not only the essential silliness of "horrid" novels, but to expose the even more horrid workings of polite society, for nothing Catherine imagines could possibly rival the hypocrisy she experiences at the hands of her supposed friends. In many respects Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen's novels, yet at its core is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage, 19th-century British style. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Austen is the hot property of the entertainment world with new feature film versions of Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility on the silver screen and Pride and Prejudice hitting the TV airwaves on PBS. Such high visibility will inevitably draw renewed interest in the original source materials. These new Modern Library editions offer quality hardcovers at affordable prices.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining! Oct. 20 2009
Format:Paperback
The heroine in this novel is Catherine Morland, who is just an average girl with straightforward manners and not an ounce of pretension; yet, she has an outrageously vivid imagination. This is cleverly and Austen-intended, I believe, to purposely deviate from the conventional heroines of the times.

The story begins with Catherine joining a friend of the family, Mrs. Allen, for a vacation at her home in Bath. Her days are filled with socializing, taking walks and especially spending time at the 'Pump- room', where she meets the rather hard-edged Henry Tilney. Catherine's simple, yet direct and opinionated responses and approaches in conversation lead her to distancing Henry for a while.

Realizing that she has feelings for him, Catherine begins to wish she could see Henry again and does everything possible for that to happen. Meanwhile she befriends Isabella Thorpe who shares her passion for books and poetry. As the two become inseparable, Catherine feels close enough to Isabella to tell her all about her feelings for Henry Tilney'

In fulfilling her dreams of being with Henry, Catherine's journey evolves through a fiasco of events revealing true personalities, feelings and deceptions. Other important characters that help bring this about involve John Thorpe, Isabella's brother, who is full of mischief and schemes. As well, Catherine's brother James, is one who has a love-story of his own to mourn over as his sister begins to put all pieces of the puzzle together. Just to add to life's intricacies, Henry and Catherine become at odds about a dilemma, caused mainly by Catherine's imagination. The couple's difficulties do not stop there as problems get compounded by family misunderstandings.

Confusion of events? You bet.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A clever send-up of Gothic fantasy March 14 2004
Format:Hardcover
One of Jane Austen's best attributes as a writer is her rapier wit and sense of humor, which especially shows itself in her earlier novels, "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility". "Northanger Abbey", which preceded both of them but was published only after her death, is a clever parody of the Gothic novel as written by Anne Radcliffe: full of dark, stormy nights, ancient castles with secret passages and locked rooms hiding unspeakable crimes, damsels in distress, and all the rest. Austen's heroine, Catherine Morland, has read a few too many such books, and we meet her at the age of seventeen, emerging from the chrysalis of adolescence as a passably pretty young woman with her head full of romantic notions and not much else. When she meets the hero of her dreams, Henry Tilney, a surprisingly level-headed young man, Catherine realizes that life as melodrama is a poor second to life in reality. Catherine is fascinated at the prospect of visiting Northanger Abbey -- what mysteries and horrors must be waiting to be discovered -- only to be brought up short by the pedestrian intrusion of real life (a locked cabinet which might have held vials of poison or, even better, a skeleton, turns out to hold nothing more dangerous than a laundry list).
"Northanger Abbey" is a good first novel but it is by no means Jane Austen's best, and Catherine is not as interesting a heroine as Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Watson or Elinor Dashwood; she's a somewhat shallow, undeveloped young lady who lacks their depth and their intelligence. But she's a likeable heroine; unlike Fanny Price, Catherine doesn't try to be perfect nor judge others for failing to be so, and unlike Emma Watson, she's not meddling in everyone else's business.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Much Better Than Expected Jan. 10 2004
Format:Paperback
This book was a hard one for me to start. Not in the tradional sense of being a difficult begining. Truthfully I thouroughly enjoyed the book from the start. (The opening paragraph was brilliant in my opinion). No, I had done something very wrong. I watched the movie first. Not that this is always wrong,(altough should be avioded when possible), I have watched some movies that have left me looking foward to the inspiring lituarature such as PRIDE & PREJUDICE or DAVID COPPERFIELD. But this movie punched me, left me reeling, never wanting to read a book that could produce a film like this.
Flash foward a few years. My wife being an avid Austen reader was also hesitant about reading it. But she took the plunge and gave it a go. While it was not her favorite book, she enjoyed it enough to recomend it to me, saying it was almost completly different from the book.
So with a little less trepidation I eventually decided I would read it. Amazing. I really liked this book. Why had I never wanted to read this book? How could they make a movie like that from this kind of material to work with? Why don't they get the people who did the PRIDE & PREJUDICE mini-series to do this?
My only problem with it was that it ended way to fast for me. Everything seemed to be resolved and finished in the last two or three pages, with very little of how thier lives turn out in the end. But if that is the only thing you can truly critize in a book, then I think your holding an excellent book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars an unpolished first novel Dec 7 2003
By erica
Format:Paperback
More lighthearted and less polished than Austen's other novels, "Northanger Abbey" is the chronicle of its heroine's adventures in turn-of-the-nineteenth-century British genteel society. Catherine, of marriageable age and reasonably attractive and well bred, goes on holiday to Bath, where she meets the gentlemanly Mr. Tilney and befriends the fickle Isabelle and her callow brother John. Her adventures in Bath and, later, in the home of her new acquaintances comprise the plot of Austen's mocking tale.
As usual, Austen is mocking the meeting-and-mating customs of then-contemporary Britain. But she is also mocking the gothic novels of the day: Catherine, influenced by the lowbrow literature she reads, is forever attributing dark motives to her acquaintances and skeletons to their closets. "Northanger Abbey" is unusual among Austen's works in that it attacks not only the society in which its heroine operates, but the heroine herself. Catherine is easily manipulated and slow to learn from her mistakes, and she bumbles into her eventual happy ending completely by accident, none the wiser for her troubles. And Austen makes clear, at the book's opening, that she does not wish to attack the novelists who write the books from which Catherine derives many of her false ideas: the error is Catherine's misapplication of the stories' lessons.
Although it was not published until after its author's death, "Northanger Abbey" is clearly a first novel. Its tone is different from the main body of Austen's work, and its quality is lower. While a pleasant read, the book is not particularly compelling and would probably be most enjoyable for Austen aficionados seeking a comprehensive study of her work.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars To read apart from the others!
Even though, this novel was the last to be published, this is actually the first complete novel that Jane Austen ever wrote. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ladybug
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
A parody of the Gothic tradition, Northanger Abbey is, in my opinion, Austen's worst novel: the heroine is insipid, and what happens to her seems contrived and overdone. Read more
Published on March 12 2012 by Millerfan
3.0 out of 5 stars Northanger Abbey (book)
This wasn,t my type of book. Maybe I might like this book the second time I read it.
Published on Nov. 17 2009 by Gladys E. Webel
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, Excellent Story
I'm surprised at some of the negative reviews on here saying the book is boring, the dialogue annoying, and the plot lacking. I'd say they've missed the point of this book. Read more
Published on June 12 2008 by Robyn L.
2.0 out of 5 stars Irritating
I have recently wanted to read Jane Austen again for some time. I had previously read two of her other novels (Pride and Prejudice and Emma) but that was a very long time ago. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2007 by Nicola Mansfield
2.0 out of 5 stars just not good
Many of the references Austen made in Northanger Abbey were meant to be satirical towards the gothic writing style prevalent in her time. Read more
Published on April 10 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars ZZZ ZZZZZ ZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZ
That's right, this book will put you to sleep. This has to be one of the most excruciating novels I have ever read. There is hardly any conflict in the plot. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by steve
4.0 out of 5 stars Wishbone
When I was a kid, I loved to watch Wishbone, the terrier that used Classic Literature as a kind to life. One episode centered around Northanger Abbey. It was my favorite episode. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen blows her chance to be a great mystery writer
This is a very amusing novel, and Cathereine Morland's adventures in Bath are very entertaining. But after she gets to Northanger Abbey it is a bit of a letdown. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2003 by L O'connor
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