Saturday, July 24, 2010

Read-Along - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 1

Hosted by Jennifer at Reading with Tequila - July 16 - August 12

One of the first of Jane Austen's novels to be written, and one of the last to be published, Northanger Abbey is both an amusing story of how a naive girl enters society and wins the affection of a witty young clergyman, and a high-spirited parody of the lurid Gothic novels that were popular during Austen's youth. In the process it features a vivid account of social life in late eighteenth-century Bath, and Austen's famous defence of the novel as a literary form.

Week 1 - Chapters 1-9

First Line : No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

The first two chapters are an introduction to Catherine and her family. Although she has changed somewhat from the plain tomboy of her early years she has little in the way of ladylike accomplishments - she gives the impression of a nice ordinary girl with limited intelligence and a tendency to live life through the heroines of the novels she reads.
Catherine prepares to accompany Mrs Allen to Bath - Mrs Allen seems to be a bit dim and fluttery. Much of her conversation is repeating what has been said to her by someone else.

Chapters 3 - 9 ........Doing the social rounds in Bath. Jane Austen was so well aquainted with this town and she gives a delightful and witty account of the activities.

Catherine meets Henry at a ball and there is an immediate attraction.
Mrs Allen's old aquaintance turns up with her daughters.
Catherine and Isabella become friends.
The brothers of the two girls arrive - James and John. Outings are planned and it becomes obvious Isabella and James have a thing going on and it would suit everyone if Catherine and John got together.
An interesting party and a carriage ride.

Catherine seems unable to think or act for herself - the result probably of her youth and inexperience - and she's far too willing to take everything said at face value. I think this about to change as the first signs of independent thinking come at the end of chapter 9........."the drive had by no means been very pleasant and that John Thorpe himself was quite disagreeable".  Which is putting it mildly - he's perfectly revolting!

Favourite Quotes.

Chapter 1 - talking about Catherine's clergyman father....."a very respectable man, though his name was Richard-"

Do Richard's not make suitable clergyman?? is the name too rakish, too frivolous??

Chapter 3 - .."it is such a fag"

I had to laugh at this expression which is commonly used here and I always thought it was a form of Aus/NZ colonial slang.

Chapter 5 includes the well known excerpt where Jane Austen writes her views on women writing and reading and a defense of the novel as literature.

I'm enjoying Northanger Abbey immensely. It's very light and easy to read, the characters are often truly awful or hilariously funny. What a wonderful observer of human behaviour Jane must have been.


  1. Catherine seems to be slooowly beginning to think for herself. In Jane Eyre, considered a gothic novel, Jane is very perceptive and able to pick up on the weirdness around her. Poor Catherine is not so least yet.

    My edition suggests the Richard bit is an inside family joke or possibly a reference to her publihser, Richard Crosby (who ended up not publishing her book).

    Well, until next week!

  2. The quote about Richard made me wonder too. I usually ignore footnotes, but I had to look this one up. My edition says it may be a nod to Richard III, perhaps alluding to the way he was portrayed in Shakespeare's play of the same name.

  3. I literally cheered when Catherine thought that about John. I was all "YES!!! She actually had an intelligent thought!!! THERE'S HOPE!!!!" Up until that point, I'd pegged her as an airhead - amusing to watch, but definitely not a heroine (as I've come to expect).

    And...I've said it a couple times already, so sorry if I'm being over-repetitive, but is it just me, or does Catherine remind you of Bella from Twilight (assuming you've read/seen it)?

  4. Jennifer - that's interesting. I haven't read Richard III but it wouldn't suprise me if it was an allusion.

  5. Chelle and Jennifer - thanks, my copy doesn't include footnotes unfortunately but that's most interesting.

    Vicki - I haven't read Twilight. I had the same reaction and again yesterday in the next chapters and was holding my breath waiting for Catherine's response.