Originally published in 1817
Source: included in the complete works of Jane Austen book given me by my parents
Catherine Morland is a naive, unaccomplished 17-year-old, prone to let her imagination take flight when she's invited to join some family friends for a few weeks in Bath. There she meets the Thorpe family, including Isabella who becomes her dearest friend. Catherine's brother, James, arrives in Bath with Isabella's brother, John. James and Isabella have met before and shortly after James' arrival in Bath, the two become engaged.
Catherine also meets Henry Tilney in Bath who she becomes smitten with and shortly after, the rest of his family including his sister, Eleanor; brother, Frederick; and father, General Tilney. Not long after Frederick arrives he begins pursuing Isabella. Catherine is so uncomfortable by the whole situation that when Eleanor invites her to come to stay with the Tilney's at Northanger Abbey, Catherine is more than ready to leave Bath. Once at Northanger Abbey, though, Catherine's imagination really begins to run away with her.
Northanger Abbey was the first book that Austen had ready for publishing, even selling it. But it was never published until after her death. It's quite obviously an early work but even an early Austen is a wonderful bit of wit.
"A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number..."
"Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can."Austen creates in Catherine a character who is in most ways a perfectly ordinary young lady. But Austen mocks society by making it appear that Catherine is deficient because she can't draw a profile or play the piano and because she is absorbed in books. Catherine's childlike, trusting nature makes her a poor judge of character, susceptible to all of Isabella's flattery, John's lies and General Tilney's excessive kindnesses. Sadly, the only way for things to end happily for Catherine ( and this being Austen, you know things will end happily) is for her to learn a great deal about human nature.
Something unique to this story is Austen's use of the writer herself as very much a part of the story. While it was appropriate for this book, before her next novel Austen had developed the ability to insert what where the writer's points in this novel into the narrative and dialogue of the characters.
This was the only Austen novel I had never read more than once. Now I'm not sure why; I know I will read it again--if for no other reason than the laughs.