Text Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenFinished Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen over a couple of days this week. I’m reading it for English Extension 1: Romanticism, but I have a confession to make…

… this is the first ever Jane Austen novel I have ever read.

How dare I call myself an English tutor?!

To be frank – I loathe reading classics. The closest thing to Austen I’ve read is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (but hey, it includes a lot of the original text!) and the Marvel graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice (yes, a graphic novel version). So finishing the 31 chapters of Northanger Abbey seemed like a momentous occasion today.

What did I think of Austen?

I quite enjoyed the satirical tone in Northanger Abbey, but I don’t think Austen is always like this in all her novels, right? The writer-speaking-to-author (fourth wall? or is it third?) asides were fun to read and I liked the ironic discussion about the value of a novel. The characters themselves were formed well and I liked all of them – Catherine’s innocence/ignorance, the unbelievable arrogance of John Thorpe etc. The only annoyance I had with Catherine was her seeming helplessness or foolishness against the characters around them. For example, how easily she is manipulated and overpowered by John Thorpe when he steals her away on his carriage.

In terms of the plot, I was quite surprised. It took until, I think, Chapter 17 for the characters to get to Northanger Abbey and, even then, I felt as disappointed as Catherine. As the title of the novel, I thought a lot more would happen and be discovered at Northanger Abbey – so it was to great surprise that nothing happened! It was here that I felt the story meandering quite a bit – especially as the characters seemed to meander around the grounds of the Abbey.

Relating it back to the English Extension 1 elective Romanticism – I think Northanger Abbey works really well, because it satirises the conventions of Romanticism, rather than simply reflecting it.

Any other comments?

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