Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland excitedly accepts an offer to accompany family friends on a trip to Bath. There, Catherine makes new acquaintances who invite her to Northanger Abbey, and she encounters a world she’d only glimpsed in the pages of her beloved Gothic novels. Through Catherine’s eyes, the Abbey is full of mystery, suspense, and adventure, and she is the heroine at the centre of it all. As her imagination begins to run wild, she imperils her summer, her new friendships, and her burgeoning relationship with charming Henry Tilney.
Age when first read – 17
Importance – Northanger Abbey was my first dip into Jane Austen. We didn’t study Austen at school and though I knew of her I hadn’t actively sought out her works. In 2007, BBC did an adaptation of Northanger Abbey that sung to my soul and after the adaptation was over, I knew I needed to read the book as well. Jane Austen’s language is difficult for me to understand and process but I refused to let that impact my reading. I just slowed my reading down and took many breaks while reading so that I could enjoy the book and not want to throw it across the room. Out of all her novels, Northanger Abbey is the one I connect with the most. I think all us readers have been in Catherine’s shoes, getting lost in our imagination and realising the reality of our imaginations as consequences for our actions. I know I have found myself in embarrassing situations because I’ve escaped from reality, only to return and see the world as it is rather than what I wanted it to be.
What was learnt – Curiosity comes at a price. It taught me to be mindful of my thoughts and actions. That there isn’t always mystery lurking around the corner and that life is alright as it is. Life usually doesn’t need the embellishments I day-dream about. It taught me that in the search for answers, you shouldn’t forget how you are coming across to other people. I might view my curiosity as adventurous and mysterious while other people might view it as an invasion of privacy and a topic they don’t wish to discuss. Catherine can be forgiven for her age but it is an interesting topic and one I often think about.
Reading as an adult – I can see more clearly how naive and innocent Catherine is. She longs for mystery and for puzzles that she can solve but she isn’t mindful of how she gets that information or at what cost. It annoyed me, reading as an adult, how much I could see of Catherine’s inexperience with social events and her lack of understanding of how to be her own person and make her own decisions.
Overall rating – 7/10