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Northanger Abbey
By Jane Austen

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Northanger Abbey

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Northanger Abbey
By Jane Austen
Thorndike Press - Large Print, and Chivers Press
ISBN: 0-7838-9633-6
Genre: English Literature

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - - January 27, 2003

Catherine Morland has been offered the opportunity to accompany Mrs. Allen to Bath, an offer which she enthusiastically accepts. This is to be the seventeen-year-old Catherine's first trip away from home, and it will turn out to represent a major turning point in her life! Like most of Jane Austen's heroines, Catherine is headstrong and she has an unabashed zest for life. These same characteristics, which make her fun and lively, also lead her to make wrong choices and wrong assumptions.

Catherine has a fondness for Gothic novels and she is a starry-eyed romantic. These two elements merge when she meets the dashing and entertaining Henry Tilney. Her acquaintance with Tilney, as well as with his father and sister, leads to an invitation to the Tilney's home, Northanger Abbey. There Catherine uncovers proof, she thinks, that the death of the elder Tilney's wife was a result of murder. A murder so heinous that it could easily have come straight out of one Catherine's gothic stories.

Catherine's story is juxtaposed against that of Isabella Thorpe, a young, sophisticated woman who has befriended Catherine. While Catherine tends to see the world through rose colored glasses, Isabella is more pragmatic. She wants a husband, preferably rich, and will do what it takes to get one. The fates of these two women are intertwined, and the respective outcomes of their endeavors serve as an unobtrusive morality tale.

Northanger Abbey is a satirical work that pokes fun at the gothic novels that were so popular in Austen's day. This is a fun novel to read, and one really gets the impression that Austen had a lot of fun writing it. As with all of Austen's novels, this is part love story and part a tale of coming of age. Ripe with comedy, this book takes a light-hearted look at what it was like to 'husband' hunt in a day and age when wealth, and genteel manners, dictated who you could and could not marry. The writing is lively and expressive, and it is, I think, the most lighthearted of all of Austen's novels.

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