Book review: ‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen


To properly appreciate “Northanger Abbey,” you must realize that the gothic novel (atmosphere of mystery and horror) was being widely read at the time Austen wrote the novel. It is commonly accepted that it was written as satire to that format.

Catherine Morland, 17, had a rare opportunity. Her neighbors, the Allens, were going to Bath on holiday. They invited her to accompany them for the six weeks. Bath, known for its Roman baths, was the gathering place for the who’s who in society. Mrs. Allen particularly like to dress for the social occasions, and they were a great opportunity for Catherine. This was especially true after Mrs. Allen met her old friend Mrs. Thorpe. A great friendship developed between Catherine and Isabelle Thorpe. The closeness was redoubled when Catherine’s brother, James, began a relationship with Isabelle.

As Isabelle’s time was often otherwise occupied, Catherine struck up a friendship with the Tillneys, Eleanor and Henry. The friendship became so close that Miss Tilney invited Catherine to Northanger Abbey for a few weeks’ stay. By now, Catherine thought she discovered that Henry might have similar feelings for her that she harbored for him.

And then the gothic satire appears. Abbeys as they appear in gothic novels are mysterious places. There are usually unexplained things happening there. It didn’t take much of a stretch, in the dark of night, to create a scenario in Catherine’s mind. After all, what had happened to General Tilney’s wife, the mother of Elenore and Henry? Did it have anything to do with the part of the abbey that the general refused to take them through?

Much to her embarrassment, Catherine discovered that she had been dealing with a mystery of her own making. “… (I)t seemed as if the whole might be traced to the influence of that sort of reading in which she had indulged.”

Even so, that’s not to say that the general did not have a dark side, perhaps just not the one she was imagining. 

The novel continues to a logical conclusion. “Northanger Abbey” is a study of English society at the time. The reader will have to judge whether it merits being called a classic.

Comments are closed.

  • Book review: ‘Money in the Morgue’ by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy

    May 27th, 2020

    When the story opens, Detective Chief-Inspector Alleyn, of the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of Scotland Yard, is in New Zealand on a secret mission.

    Tri-Parish to begin offering Masses on Pentecost weekend

    May 27th, 2020

    Public Masses are coming again! Bishop Callahan has given permission for weekend Mass to once again be offered publicly beginning on Pentecost weekend, May 30–31.

    Brookwood senior parade is Friday

    May 18th, 2020

    Friday, May 22, would have been Brookwood High School students’ graduation ceremony, and to recognize our seniors, we’re hosting a senior parade Friday night.

    Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District will offer pick-up/drop-off dates for student materials

    May 15th, 2020

    The Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District will have pick-up/drop-off days for student materials from May 28–30.

    Book review: ‘Rooster Bar’ by John Grisham

    May 13th, 2020

    Foggy Bottom was a for-profit law school in Washington D.C.

  • Celebrating dairy: Individuals, organizations donate to school lunch programs

    May 13th, 2020

    A flurry of dairy donations has been made to local schools over the past few weeks.

    Brookwood blood drive will be at Wilton Community Center

    May 6th, 2020

    The Wednesday, May 13, Red Cross blood drive hosted by the Brookwood High School FFA will now be held at the Wilton Community Center.

    Book review: ‘Us Against You’ by Fredrik Backman (translator Neil Smith)

    May 5th, 2020

    “Beartown” introduces us to a hockey town, and not just any hockey town, but a relatively small, rural community in the forests of Sweden that has been a hockey town to be reckoned with in the past.

    Wilton woman sentenced to probation for selling narcotic prescription medications

    May 1st, 2020

    Karri Jo Asselin, 44, of Wilton was sentenced on April 28 in Monroe County Circuit Court to four years of probation for manufacturing/deliver schedule I, II narcotics/party to a Crime.

    Book review: ‘Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’ by Olga Tokarczuk

    April 29th, 2020

    Janina Duszeijko is a retired bridge building engineer who lives on a mountain plateau near the Czech Republic.

    Friday marks first day of Kendall Public Library’s curbside services

    April 28th, 2020

    Libraries within the Winding Rivers Library System, including the Kendall Public Library, are beginning to offer curbside service in accordance with guidelines from the Department of Public Instruction.

  • Archives