I was tempted to start this entry with “Victory! I have found a Jane Austen novel that I don’t want to call my favorite!” but that seems wrong of me, considering how much I love Jane Austen. But it’s true: after a second reading, I’ve found that Northanger Abbey is definitely my least favorite Austen novel.
Northanger Abbey is the story of Catherine Morland, who even the narrator acknowledges is an “unlikely heroine”: she is rather plain, not poor but certainly not rich, and spends most of her time reading Gothic novels. When she falls in love with Henry Tilney at Bath and is subsequently invited to visit with the Tilneys at their home, Northanger Abbey, Catherine’s imagination runs away with her as she begins to see Northanger Abbey as a site of nightmarish horror. Eventually, of course, Catherine is set straight, and though it’s up in the air until the very end, the novel does end happily.
Maybe I just wasn’t really paying attention either time I’ve read Northanger Abbey (I read it for the first time over the summer), but I find this story to be the least memorable of any that Jane Austen has woven. Yes, the passages in which Catherine freaks out during her first few nights at the Abbey are amusing, but that’s about the extent of what I really remember, even though she doesn’t actually end up at Northanger Abbey until halfway through the book.
I also haven’t had a heroine annoy me quite as much as Catherine annoys me. She’s a likable enough person, I guess, but silly and gets way too carried away with herself. It’s fine to have a vivid imagination, but the assumptions she makes are so incredibly unrealistic that it’s clear she has her head more often in the clouds than on solid ground.
Not to mention that the guy she falls for, Henry Tilney, is sort of an ass. Not as much of an ass as her other option, John Thorpe, but still…an ass. He gets better throughout, as in he stops correcting her in every little thing she says, but I already disliked him enough that I didn’t care. I wanted Catherine to marry him because, even if I didn’t like her that much, I wanted a happy ending, but still.
I still think you should read Northanger Abbey because Jane Austen’s writings really need to be read as a set (this includes her minor and unfinished works as well, like Lady Susan, Sanditon, The Watsons, etc.). And all the crazy little stories she wrote as a young girl—those are hilarious. But my point is, just because I didn’t particularly love Northanger Abbey doesn’t mean you won’t, so you should definitely read it because, come on, it’s Jane Austen.