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According to the introduction in my copy written by the author herself, Northanger Abbey was sold to a publisher in 1803 but languished there until Austen bought it back in 1816. The first edition was published in 1818.
I actually had no plans to read this particular book by Austen any time soon. Gothic literature is apparently not my thing. (I tried reading two different books for Gothic lit for this circuit before giving up on both.) I’m also not a big fan of dark, creepy things, and I thought for sure this book would either fall into that category or be solemn and somber. I really should give Austen more credit; her tongue-in-cheek humor and playful nature shone through in this novel.
Based on other reviews, Catherine Morland seems to be like Emma Woodhouse; you either love her or hate her. My characterization of Catherine? She’s a mouse. Meek and timid. Afraid of her own shadow. Catherine reminds me a lot of Anne Elliot. I liked her but in that let-me-tuck-you-under-my-wing-so-no-one-hurts-you kind of way.
“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her own situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her.” (pg. 3)
Ann Radcliffe is mentioned throughout the novel, and I did attempt to read one of her books before beginning this. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m quite sure many of Austen’s jabs and criticisms went over my head because of this, but I honestly didn’t feel like I missed out on too much.
It’s never going to be my favorite Austen but I’m glad I didn’t avoid it solely because of my perceptions of what the book was about. (FYI, the 2007 made-for-TV movie by Masterpiece is also quite good.)
The Classics Circuit
I read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen for The Classics Circuit’s Gothic Literature Tour, which continues through October 31, 2011. Since I’m posting towards the end of the tour, I encourage you to back and check out other participants’ thoughts on this book in particular or other pieces of Gothic literature.
- Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. Salt Lake City, UT: Project Gutenberg, 2010. Originally published 1818. 276 pgs. ISBN: XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Source: Free download.