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Northanger Abbey (2005)

Northanger Abbey (2005)

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3.77 of 5 Votes: 3
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1593082649 (ISBN13: 9781593082642)
barnes & noble classics

About book Northanger Abbey (2005)

Northanger Abbey is the shortest of Jane Austen's six major novels, and has a special place in many readers' hearts. In many ways it is not the tightly constructed witty sort of story we expect from this author, yet its spontaneity and rough edges prove to be part of its charm. Started when she was very young, it should perhaps more properly be classed as part of her juvenilia. What lifts it above the other earlier works, however, is the skill she demonstrates for writing a parody of all the gothic romantic novels which were so popular at the time. And this aspect is twinned with another of Jane Austen's concerns, a satirical observation of human nature within a narrow band of society; a comedy of manners. There are many literary allusions, which focus on the gothic genre. At the time Jane Austen was writing, novels - especially gothic novels of this type - were looked down upon by many people, particularly those of the upper classes. It is likely that a young writer would therefore feel that she needed a strong position from which to defend her craft against any critics who might in future disparage her work. The characters in Northanger Abbey itself constantly refer both to "Mrs Radcliffe", and her novels, such as "The Mysteries of Udolpho" and "The Italian" by name. At one point, where Catherine, the heroine, is chatting to her friend, she asks Isabella for suggestions. Her friend replies,"I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. "Castle of Wolfenbach", "Clermont", "Mysterious Warnings", "Necromancer of the Black Forest", "Midnight Bell", "Orphan of the Rhine", and "Horrid Mysteries". Those will last us some time."And Catherine insists,"Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"As an interesting aside, although for many years these were assumed to be merely invented titles by Jane Austen, it has since come to light that they are actual gothic novels, by different authors. They have subsequently been republished as "The Northanger Horrid Novels Collection". This particular sort of comedy is lacking in Jane Austen's subsequent novels, which perhaps are a little more cautious in their wit and irony, being intended for a wider audience. Northanger Abbey was meant mainly as family entertainment, which is why Austen mischievously includes so many literary references, which she expected her relatives to pick up and recognise. Jane Austen also addresses the reader directly throughout the novel, and sometimes voices her own opinions quite forcefully, forgetting the story for a moment. But perhaps she had an eye to the future, considering that attack is the best form of defence, and writing this way quite deliberately in anticipation of any critical assessment. As these passages burst upon us, we are provided with a little insight into Austen's opinions at the time. Famously, very little remains extant, to show us her opinions, due to her instructions to her sister Cassandra to burn all her letters after her death.Originally Northanger Abbey was entitled "Susan" and written around 1798-99. It was the first of her novels to be submitted for publication, in 1803. However, it was not in fact published until 1817-18, after further revision by the author, including changing the main character's name from "Susan" to "Catherine". Jane Austen died in July 1817. The two novels Northanger Abbey and "Persuasion" (her final novel) were thus both published posthumously, comprising the first two volumes of a four-volume set. Interestingly, neither title was her own invention, but probably that of her brother, Henry, who had been instrumental in their publication.As well as being a Gothic parody, and a comedy of manners, Northanger Abbey is a coming of age novel, another favourite theme from Jane Austen. The first sentence,"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine"sets the very droll, tongue in cheek tone for the writing. We are chattily introduced to the young and naïve Catherine, the novel's unlikely heroine. Catherine is not particularly pretty or feminine, and one of ten children of a country clergyman. However, by the age of 17, we are told that she is "in training for a heroine", having all the attributes considered desirable in a young girl at the time. The reader enjoys Catherine's youthful enthusiasm and also how impressionable she is. She has crazes, such as being excessively fond of reading Gothic novels - the more "horrid" she claims with glee, the better. She takes everything at face value, at the start of the novel being unable to see any deviousness, or any baser motives. Catherine is not very perceptive, not ever able to interpret what may lie behind certain actions if it is negative. She is innocent - a naïve - and in this, has a lot of charm and attraction for the reader. We follow Catherine's progress, as she is invited by some wealthier neighbours in Fullerton, the Allens, to accompany them to visit the fashionable town of Bath. There she is introduced to society over the winter season, through attending balls and the theatre. So although it is constantly referred to, there is in fact little gothic feel in the whole first half of the novel. It is much more similar to Jane Austen's later novels, both in its setting, and its preoccupations. It is concerned with young people and their feelings; how they mature, and how their marriage prospects improve as a consequence. In this aspect, all Jane Austen's novels are very similar, and all of them have reassuringly happy endings. Jane Austen is always keen to entertain her readers! Catherine's amiability and good character is further demonstrated through her making friends, in Bath, with a confident older girl, Isabella Thorpe, the daughter of Mrs Allen's old school-friend. The reader can see straightaway that Isabella is far more savvy and ambitious than Catherine, and possibly manipulating her new friend. Isabella has a brother, John whom Catherine is delighted to find is also a friend of her older brother, James. Both young men are fellow students at Oxford University. However she (and the reader) takes an instant dislike to John, finding him pompous, brash, boastful and overbearing. In the meantime she has met a witty and clever young gentleman, Henry Tilney, and enjoyed his company and conversation. The reader can deduce that, at 17, she is well on the way to falling in love with this intelligent and polite, slightly older and more experienced gentleman. The novel has several social situations which, although very much of their time, reveal essential aspects of human nature which are timeless. The difficulties facing Catherine are difficulties and situations common to all teenagers. There is embarrassment, a feeling of gaucheness and several occasions where the peer pressure is very strong, such as when James, Isabella and John try to persuade her to join them when she had made a former promise for another engagement. Catherine also has to learn how to stay polite and resolute when she is bullied by John Thorpe. And when she eventually returns home to her parents, uncomprehending of why she has been treated in such a shameful way, the reader is treated to the common enough spectacle of a moody, sulky teenager. For the second half of the novel the setting has switched to Northanger Abbey itself, as Catherine has received an invitation to stay there. The tone becomes slightly darker, and the viewpoint switches to be almost entirely from Catherine's perspective, using free indirect narration. Everything is presented from Catherine's point of view, which leads to some hilarious moments, due to her romantic notions of what an ancient abbey should be like. The reader has been well prepared for this, through conversations between Catherine and Henry Tilney. Here she is very excited about the prospect of a visit to the abbey, "You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey.""To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?"Henry Tilney continues to tease her, although Catherine revels in the descriptions, not realising that this is what he is doing,"And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as "what one reads about" may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry? ... "Will not your mind misgive you when you find yourself in this gloomy chamber - too lofty and extensive for you, with only the feeble rays of a single lamp to take in its size - its walls hung with tapestry exhibiting figures as large as life, and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet, presenting even a funereal appearance? Will not your heart sink within you?"Catherine waits impatiently for her visit, whereas the reader has been privy to broad hints that the abbey may not be at all as she expects. Sure enough, our innocent heroine's expectations increase on the journey,"As they drew near the end of their journey, her impatience for a sight of the abbey ... returned in full force, and every bend in the road was expected with solemn awe to afford a glimpse of its massy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with the last beams of the sun playing in beautiful splendour on its high Gothic windows."But as the reader expects, the exterior of the building comes as a bit of a let-down, "She knew not that she had any right to be surprised, but there was a something in this mode of approach which she certainly had not expected. To pass between lodges of a modern appearance, to find herself with such ease in the very precincts of the abbey, and driven so rapidly along a smooth, level road of fine gravel, without obstacle, alarm, or solemnity of any kind, struck her as odd and inconsistent ... The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the general talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved - the form of them was Gothic - they might be even casements - but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing." All the descriptions of Bath society, both in Northanger Abbey and Austen's other novels, are drawn from her own experience. One of the interesting aspects of Northanger Abbey, however, is that passages such as these seem to indicate she incorporates her reading experience as well as her real-life experience; it is just as much a product of the Gothic novels that she herself read. One of the highlights of the novel is where Henry Tilney teases Catherine about the "horrid" contents of such novels. Typically there would be a crumbling old building, possibly an abbey, once used to house nuns or monks. The abbey would then become abandoned and derelict, and later bought by an evil lord or baron. Dastardly deeds would occur in the ancient edifice, once the lord or baron took possession, and the once holy nature of the abbey would become an ironic feature in these Gothic novels.Northanger Abbey is a dreadful disappointment for Catherine, who had imagined herself as the heroine of a Gothic novel. Living out her imaginative fantasies, she was hoping to be thrilled by mystery, horror, and sinister and macabre deeds from an earlier time. She had found Bath to be a pleasant tourist town, interesting for her to visit, but in Catherine's mind, the Abbey would inevitably be a place of new heightened experiences. At every point where the Abbey turns out to be conventional and normal, Catherine remembers the abbeys from her favourite gothic novels, deliberately frightening herself to complete her thrilling anticipations, "The night was stormy; the wind had been rising at intervals the whole afternoon; and by the time the party broke up, it blew and rained violently. Catherine, as she crossed the hall, listened to the tempest with sensations of awe; and, when she heard it rage round a corner of the ancient building and close with sudden fury a distant door, felt for the first time that she was really in an abbey."Catherine still longs for the abbey to conform to her imagined ideal, and one of the funniest scenes in the book is (view spoiler)[when she discovers a cabinet, with a mysterious paper inside. Her imagination runs riot at what this could be, but it eventually turns out to be simply a laundry list. (hide spoiler)]

NOVELS.Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another, we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens,--there seems almost a general with of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no novel reader--I seldom look into novels--Do not imagine that I often read novels--It is really very well for a novel.’--Such is the common cant.--”And what are you reading, Miss--?’ “Oh! it is only a novel!’ replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. Gertrude SteinGertrude Stein: Do you know why you are here Mr. Keeten?Keeten: I don’t even know where I am. Stein: You are before the Book Tribunal. I rubbed my jaw. Keeten: Did Hemingway have to slug me?Stein: Fetching, people such as yourself, to appear before this tribunal seems to be the one thing that Hemingway does enjoy about serving on the panel.Hemingway gave a short bark of a laugh. Ernest HemingwayStein: Let me introduce Charlotte Bronte and of course you’ve met Mr. Hemingway.I waved at Bronte. Hemingway gave me a salute. I gave him a tight nod and my jaw another rub. Stein: You have been assigned counsel. Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Keeten: Yes I would like to talk to him. Maybe he can explain what this is all about. Where is he?Stein: I do believe he is under your table.I leaned over and spied a slumped form softly snoring. I grabbed a shoulder and rolled him over. Gin fumes teared up my eyes.Keeten: Miss Stein I need a new counsellor. Stein: I’m afraid that is impossible. You’ve told many people that Fitzgerald is your favorite writer and the rules of this tribunal is that your favorite writer represents you. Keeten: I’d like to change that to Gore Vidal.Bouts of laughter greet this request. Only then did I realize that the seats behind me were full of dead writers. I waved to Kurt Vonnegut and he gave me a wink. Keeten: Was something I said humorous?Stein: In the short time that Mr. Vidal has joined us he has been requested many times, but unfortunately no one has been before us that actually considered him to be their favorite writer. Hemingway: You chose unwisely. Fitzgerald over me what a joke that is.Keeten: I think your work is swell Hemingway and Miss Bronte, I really loved Villette.Stein: Okay, okay Mr. Keeten enough with the flattering. What do you think of my work?Keeten: ErhhhHer mannish features framed a pronounced grimace.Stein: That’s okay Mr. Keeten I won’t force you to manufacture platitudes, very few people can really understand and appreciate my work. I thought a change of subject was in order.Keeten: Why exactly am I here?Stein: It is regarding Jane Austen.I felt my blood run a little cold. Keeten: I just finished reading Northanger Abbey.Stein: Yes we know. In the past you have made some rather cutting remarks about Miss Austen.Keeten: I won’t deny that I harbored some resentment, not towards Miss Austen as much as towards a survey class I was forced to take in college. Stein: You sir, are parsing words. Hemingway interrupted. Isn’t it time for a drink?Stein: Why not?Djuna Barnes walked out with a silver tray filled with shots of gin and as the glass clinked on the table in front of me Fitzgerald sprang up like a jack in the box with his hand out, fingers none too steady, reaching for a glass. He slammed the shot down his throat and before I could tilt my own glass up he’d already slid back beneath the table. The gin hit my stomach like a mariachi band.As Barnes walked back by me after serving the judges, looked in the prime of life like all the judges, although that was up for debate with Stein, I said you are prettier than your pictures. Djuna BarnesBarnes: Save it. You are not even remotely my type. I could feel the heat on my neck climbing up to my cheeks. She flipped my chin with her finger. Barnes: Good luck anyway. Stein: If you are finished annoying Miss Barnes, Mr. Keeten, can we proceed?Keeten: Of course.Stein: As you were saying.Keeten: I apologize to Miss Austen if any of my remarks were inappropriately expressed. I can assure her that I have the utmost respect for her as a writer. In fact I intend to write a very positive review about Northanger Abbey.Stein: The writer in question is not allowed to attend the proceedings, but we will express your regret for your behavior to her. We have a party that we must get to Mr. Keeten so we are going to wrap this up. It is our intention here today to give you a warning about expressing yourself in such flippant ways about the works of the members of this novelist community in the future. If we feel the need to call you back again I can assure you more strident discussion will be conveyed to you. Keeten: Yes ma’am.Stein: Anything further to add Miss Bronte.Bronte: I think he is kind of handsome. Charlotte BronteStein: Irrelevant Miss Bronte and to balance the scales I must say I find him to be a rather unattractive man. Mr. Hemingway?Hemingway: Do I get to send him back?Stein: *Sigh* yes Mr. Hemingway please do so.Hemingway walked across the room towards me. Before I could even speculate about how he was going to send me back his fist imploded against my jaw. As I slid to the floor I heard him say.“I got to send you back the same way you came Tinkerbell.”I woke on the floor of my library in a slurry of drool. My head pounding, both sides of my jaw tender to the touch. Note to self do not write a negative review of Hemingway. From the way my stomach feels I’d say the gin ate a hole through my insides and was still burrowing deeper. I pull myself up to the computer. The Lovely Jane AustenThe heroine of this novel, Miss Catherine Morland, was a reader of gothic literature. I know it was Jane Austen’s intention to poke fun at the craze of people reading this type of novel, but since I’m a fan of the genre I actually enjoyed the frequent references to the author Ann Radcliffe and the other books that were being bought, enjoyed, and discussed in English drawing rooms of the time. Miss Morland has hopes of finding herself enmeshed in a romance of gothic proportions. When her parents consent to letting her visit friends and she meets new friends she knows she is on the verge of a grand adventure. She meets the Tilney’s, and in particular meets the man of our tale, Henry Tilney, who demonstrates early on that he had the makings of being the romantic hero of the new plot evolving in the mind of Miss Morland. She is invited to visit the Tilney’s at the family estate and the vision that Catherine composes in her mind about Northanger Abbey is doomed for disappointment. To give one example where the Abbey failed to provide the proper gothic atmosphere:The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the General talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved--the form of them was Gothic--they might be even casements--but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.Catherine is mortified by her own ineptness with proper behavior. She is manipulated by friends, but proves to be a quick learner and shows a steely spine standing up to their overbearing behavior towards her. When she is cast out she proves her mettle once again finding her own way home with quiet determination despite her inexperience with the workings of the world. Yes she is silly, and maybe because of her Gothic view of the world, I liked Catherine...a lot. I wish the plot of the novel would have allowed more of Henry Tilney as he certainly seemed like a man, a reader of novels, who I would have enjoyed taking a long walk with to discuss literature, life, and all things nice. There is subtle comedy throughout this short novel and even when our heroine is unhappy I didn’t feel distressed, for how could the world deny Catherine her happy ending? If you have struggled with other Austen novels I can assure you this is a breezy affair, not to say that it doesn’t have literary merit, for it has, if nothing else, repaired my relationship with Miss Austen and I fully intend now to reread her other works and evaluate them through attitude adjusted eyes.

Do You like book Northanger Abbey (2005)?

Jane Austen’s novels are just about romance and naïve women. There just another telling of boy meets girl in an uninspiring way with a few social issues thrown in. Well, ashamed as I am to admit it, that is what I used to believe in my woefully idiotic ignorance. How foolish of me. Now that I’ve actually bothered to read one of her novels, because I had to for university purposes, I realise how stupid I was to actually think this. Jane Austen is one of, if not the, best novelists of all time. If you disbelieve me, and held a similar opinion to my own, then read one of her novels and find out for yourself. That being said though Catherine, the protagonist of this novel, is somewhat ignorant and naïve to the ways of the world; but, she had to be. Indeed, if not Austen would have been unable to achieve such an endearing comment on the absurdity of society, the role of women in that said society, and the ignorance toward the unpopular literary craft of the novel. How else if not though the eyes of an innocent young girl who cannot understand the mechanisms of these aspects of the world? Who when thrust into the pump room (a sort of ball room for dance and socialising) has virtually no idea how to behave. Catherine has an immeasurable misunderstanding of the intentions of others, and a misguided view that the world is like one of her beloved books: a romantic adventure with a little bit of popular gothic thrown in for excitement. She cannot comprehend the reasoning behind her friend, Isabella Thorpe’s, behaviour and how she is only leading her brother along; she cannot understand that Henry’s father is not a gothic villain, but a man in mourning with a harsh temper: her vision has become obscured."Catherine's blood ran cold with the horrid suggestions which naturally sprang from these words. Could it be possible? - Could Henry's father? - And yet how many were the examples to justify even the blackest suspicions!"This is achieved through a narration that is a work of genius. Austen has satirised the conventions of gothic literature by writing a semi-gothic novel herself that is focalised through the experience of Catherine. Catherine is well read, but only as far as the gothic genre allows. This has clouded her interpretation of the events that occur around her, consequently, life to her has become akin to the works by authors such as Radcliffe. This means that by the time that Catherine arrives at the abbey she expects it to be this place of utter darkness and dread; she expects to be a gothic castle and the home to a tyrannical gothic villain. However, when the veil is lifted and she realises that her life is in fact not a book and the motivations of the people in it are not what she thought them to be, the revelation of how foolish she has been dawns upon her. I’m not going to lie, I felt like Catherine at this point; I held a ridiculous opinion that when lifted allowed me to see the work of Austen for what it was: utter brilliance. I love Northanger Abbey; it is brilliant. Jane Austen is the master of her craft; her work is what she argued the novel to be:“Only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”
—Bookworm Sean

This book was amazing and very cleverly written! I've now read 4 out of Jane Austen's 6 novels, and so far this is my favourite. This is a story about Catherine who is a very plain and dull girl. However, in this book, she goes on a journey - first to Bath, later to Northanger Abbey - where she encounters new characters and establish new connections. I must admit that during the first half of the novel, I was anxious to get to the scary and creepy part which I had been told was part of this Victorian novel. Even though I was mildly disappointed that the creepy part didn't set in until late into the book, I very much enjoyed the first half. Jane Austen is excellent at writing satire as well as creating exaggerated characters that make you laugh and smile. Isabella, the obnoxious friend, was amazing, and the way that Catherine is constantly put into uncomfortable and unfavorable situations through her friendship with her was hilarious. Then the creepy part set in, and I was very much satisfied. I read some parts at night in bed and some parts in my couch during the day, but I was still equally creeped out. Catherine's experiences are once again hilarious, however very understandable, and I loved her even more for it. All in all, this is a coming-of-age story in which Catherine grows tremendously in three months. I can't put my finger on anything I didn't like about the book, and I'm eager to spread my love for it to everyone else. Please, read it if you haven't already and if you like Jane Austen's writing, because this one certainly won't disappoint you.
—helen the bookowl

I have a confession to make.Secretly, I much prefer "Northanger Abbey" and "Mansfield Park" to anything else written by Jane Austen, even "Pride and Prejudice," which we're all supposed to claim as our favorite because it is one of the Greatest Books Ever Written In the English Language. I don't DISLIKE "Pride and Prejudice," but I just don't think it stands up to this one. I'm sorry, but it's true."Northanger Abbey" feels like two very different stories that eventually merge into one at the end: the story of feisty, level-headed romance-novel-addict Catherine Morland and her adventures in Bath during the party season, falling in love and making new friends and escaping unpleasant suitors; and the story of Catherine's post-Bath vacation with her new best friend Eleanor back to Eleanor's country home, a huge creepy old place called Northanger Abbey. Catherine's obsession with bloodthirsty Gothic novels leads her to see a mystery or a creepy secret in every room (eventually leading her to suspect Eleanor's grumpy dad of having unceremoniously murdered his own wife, OR, possibly, of locking her up in a hidden dungeon somewhere inside the abbey), and her various misadventures and misunderstandings make for top-shelf farce. But then when a REAL mystery arrives on her doorstep (taking us back into the world of Bath and bringing the two stories together), she realizes that she's been looking at things upside-down and backwards the whole time. This book has some real,heartfelt drama and romance, but mainly I like it because it's really, really funny. Catherine is awesome and kind of nuts, and the supporting characters run the gamut from really likeable and charming (Eleanor and her brother Henry) to the excruciatingly irritating John and Isabella, who totally beat out both Mrs. Bennet, Aunt Norris, and Lucy Steele in my list of Best-Ever Annoying Jane Austen Characters.

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