Now … I love Jane Austen, and I don’t want to betray her but … ‘Northanger Abbey’ isn’t her best work. I actually had trouble concentrating on it, which rarely happens to me.
It is the story of Catherine Morland, a naïve young lady on her first trip to Bath, who becomes obsessed with Gothic novels and starts to imagine intrigue everywhere. As usual, Austen’s observation of character is not only spot on, but up-to-date too – I was reminded, embarrassingly, of myself as a teenager, waiting for spectacular things to happen to me. Perhaps teenagers don’t change, or maybe it’s just me (hopefully the former!) The other characters are painted with the wit you would expect from Austen.
The plot lets her down. It takes ages for anything to really happen, with a lot of tangents along the way, and when it does happen it’s not that interesting. Austen often seemed to rush her endings by bunging a few weddings in, and this is the most rushed and formulaic of them all, which leaves you feeling disappointed.
If you’ve read the other Austen novels, then read this for completeness. Just don’t start with it, she’s got much better to offer.
Next book review: 'The Thrift Book' by India Knight