Barnes & Noble Classic, 2005 [Originally published 1817]
I remember watching the Wishbone episode about Northanger Abbey years and years ago, and thinking it was a little weird. This was long before I was bosom buddies with Jane Austen, and as a late elementary/early middle school kid, Northanger Abbey just didn't capture my attention the way Joan of Arc and Ivanhoe did. The lingering sense of 'weirdness' kept me from visiting it once I was older and a confessing fan of Jane. But the ladies of Indie Jane have been telling me I must read it - if for no other reason than to meet Henry Tilney - so I decided to join their NA-Readalong.
Northanger Abbey is Jane's response to the Gothic novels sweeping through society. Catherine Moreland, our naive heroine, loves these novels, and much of her 'education' about society and people have come from them. Growing up in a happy-but-sheltered home, Catherine was unprepared for her 'debut' in society when family friends invite her to join them in Bath. Wholly out of her element, the first person Catherine meets is the too-smart-and-appealing-for-his-own-good Henry Tilney, who quite captures her attention. But soon Catherine makes new friends, who also end up being her brother's friends: Isabella and John Thorpe. The Thorpes are as far removed from the Tilneys as characters can get, and Catherine's attempts to figure everyone and everything out help us see into not only the story, but also society.
For me, the time in Bath was like a giant set-up for when the scene shifted to Northanger Abbey and Catherine's visit with the Tilneys. It was a time to get to know Catherine, and see how her mind works, how she sees the world and interacts with the people around her. It was also a time of wanting to throw a bucket of water on Isabella (she's not bad-bad, but she's the queen of catty divas) and duct tape John Thorpe's mouth not only shut, but also to his right knee. But I didn't really feel like the story was moving very much in Bath. Once we landed in Northanger however, things got going and I really enjoyed Catherine's story. Henry Tilney is a hero worth reading, and I loved how smart alecky he was - and that Eleanor (his sister) would turn around and give him what-for when he got too carried away with himself. Watching Catherine's ideas of romance grow was sweet, and rather realistic, I think.
On the whole, I'm glad I waited to read Northanger Abbey - I don't think I would have appreciated it as much when I was younger; as an ancient mid-twenties reader, I got more enjoyment out of the endeavor. Talking about it with the Indie Janeites every week was fun too!
Book provided by my local library.