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Penguin Classics Northanger Abbey [Paperback]

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

Feb. 25 2003 Penguin Classics
A witty exploration of the perils of mistaking fiction for reality, Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" is edited with an introduction and notes by Marylin Butler in "Penguin Classics". During an eventful season at Bath, young, naive Catherine Morland experiences the joys of fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: rude, boorish John Thorpe, his flirtatious sister Isabella, who shares Catherine's love of sensational novels and intrigue, and sophisticated Eleanor and Henry Tilney, who invite her to their father's mysterious house, Northanger Abbey. There, her imagination, influenced by Gothic romances, such as Ann Radcliffe's "The Mysteries of Udolpho", Catherine imagines terrible crimes committed by General Tilney. With its broad comedy and irrepressible, impressionable heroine, this is the most youthful and optimistic of Jane Austen's works. The "Penguin Classics" edition of "Northanger Abbey" is based on the first edition of 1818, and includes a chronology and additional suggestions for further reading. Jane Austen (1775-1817) was extremely modest about her own genius but has become one of English literature's most famous women writers. Austen began writing at a young age, embarking on what is possibly her best-known work, "Pride and Prejudice", at the age of 22. She was the author of "Sense and Sensibility", "Pride and Prejudice", "Emma", "Persuasion", "Mansfield Park" and "Northanger Abbey". If you enjoyed "Northanger Abbey", you may like Ann Radcliffe's "The Mysteries of Udolpho", also available in "Penguin Classics". "The most perfect artist among women, the writer whose books are immortal". (Virginia Woolf). "These modern editions are to be strongly recommended for their scrupulous texts, informative notes and helpful introductions". (Brian Southam, The Jane Austen Society).

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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To read apart from the others! June 30 2013
By Ladybug TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Even though, this novel was the last to be published, this is actually the first complete novel that Jane Austen ever wrote. Here she depicts the life of Catherine Morland, the daughter of a clergyman and who comes from a large family, who is neither immensely rich nor highly intelligent and her stay in Bath with some family friends, where she encounters love in the person of Henry Tilney. But although his father seems at first to approve the match, a misunderstanding comes to change his mind, misunderstanding that must be clarified in order for Catherine to achieve marital bliss.

Of all her heroines, I find that Jane Austen draws more of her own family situation to depict Catherine that she actually did for the others: daughter of a clergyman, numerous family, tight family relationships... As it was her first novel, I also find it to be the weakest of her work, as you can almost feel the author questioning herself as to what makes a great novel: what subjects, what character traits, what heroine or gentleman? The story in itself is also pretty simple as it is imitates a little bit the structure of Vaudeville theater, with the misunderstandings regarding Catherine’s financial status, her acquaintance with John Thorpe or her brother’s engagement to Isabella. The author also pays tribute to her admiration for Ann Radcliffe by making one of her novels Catherine’s favorite books and putting a little Gothic spin to the story when it comes to the description of Northanger Abbey. All in all, this first novel remains a well-plotted hodgepodge as well as an entertaining light story.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining! Oct. 20 2009
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 Worth Reading March 12 2012
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. And yet Austen's talent is still apparent here, for the language still sparkles with wit and with the occasional gem of observation. I read it so that I could say that I'd read all of Austen's novels, and I'm glad I did. I'll reread it in the years to come.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, Excellent Story June 12 2008
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. It does have a good plot, but it's more realistic than the usual story. Yes, it may be more commonplace, but I found it refreshing. The story focuses on conversation and people and Catherine, which I enjoyed because it was so skillfully done. The characters rang so true, Henry Tilney made me laugh out loud, Catherine was sweet and funny and the ending was wonderful. I loved this book! It's my second favourite Austen book next to Emma.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A clever send-up of Gothic fantasy March 14 2004
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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Most recent customer reviews
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
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 Much Better Than Expected
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2004 by Lawrence G Coatney
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
3.0 out of 5 stars an unpolished first novel
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... Read more
Published on Dec 7 2003 by erica
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. 27 2003 by L O'connor
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