Book: Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)

12 Jun

Book cover showing the painted portrait of a young woman

I am so impressed that Jane Austen wrote this at 22 years old. It’s her first novel but until it was printed posthumously she had made changes to the manuscript. It’s hard to know what changed (beyond the name of the main character and the title) but it does feel like the whole book is a bit disjointed. It’s hard to say how much to attribute this to the rewriting or to the fact that it is a patchwork of themes and genres. 

It’s a satire, in the form of a parody of gothic novels,  but it’s also a feminist work except that every female is several shades of dim, it’s a love story except that the male protagonist is away most of the time *and* whose love is rather undeclared, it’s a coming of age book both about the main character and apparently for Jane Austen herself. 

Northanger Abbey goes against all common conceptions but always smoothly. All characters are fascinating. It’s very witty —so much of the book is quotable!

But there are a few things that did not work for me in the roles of the entire Tilney family and which remain unexplained despite research and after reading introductions and some reviews from scholars. To name only one, why would the father, a general —or any rich man for that matter— care so much about designing the marriage of only one of his children (and to be that of his second son), and how could he devote so much energy and time to it, remains an utter mystery.

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