KP Book Review: Northanger Abbey

If you’re like me, as an avid reader or writer, you’ve probably imagined what it would be like to be the hero or heroine of your own little story. northangerabbey

And that’s what makes Northanger Abbey such a fun and entertaining book to read.  The book’s protagonist, Catherine Morland, is essentially a protagonist who does just that: she grew up reading tons of books, and thus she now views herself as a sort of heroine whose story is currently unfolding.  Like any Jane Austen protagonist, Catherine is a single woman in search of a husband.  And so, as the book unfolds, Catherine tries to compare herself with the heroines of the books that she’s read as she tries to find a spouse.

This unique spin on a romantic heroine, combined with Austen’s wit, led to a very engaging and enjoyable protagonist.  All of this allows Austen to include a good bit of mild satire on standard tropes in the average novel, as well as some tropes specific to the romance.  While Northanger Abbey doesn’t seem to live up to the literary greatness of some of her other works like Emma or Pride and Prejudice, I at least found it to be the most engaging book that she’s written.  The heroine-twist along with a mystery aspect later on in the novel really helped this book to feel fresh and it was interesting to see Austen experiment with different angles on her typical genre of romance.

Of course, for Austen, novels are never just about the interesting characters that inhabit them: they’re also about the character arcs.  And so, like all Austen novels, this novel also wraps up with a pretty satisfying character arc (which I’ll avoid spoiling for the review).  For those who have read and enjoyed Austen’s other works and are interested in seeing some different spins on Austen’s general story patterns, this is a great book to pick up.

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Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.
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  1. I just recently read this book, and I really enjoyed it! And I completely agree with you that this is Austen’s most engaging novel, at least of the ones I’ve read. 🙂 Great review!

  2. Hey, I’ve read this one! 😀 I definitely agree it’s the most engaging of Austen’s works. I also like the sneaky commentary on the power of literature she wove in there with the message— ‘don’t let your imagination run away with you’, but also ‘words are a powerful, powerful tool’. I think everyone here would agree with me on that… 😛 😉
    Good review, Josiah!

    • Josiah DeGraaf says:

      Yes; definitely! I found that the message of the book hit very close to home for me, which is part of the reason that I really enjoyed it. Plus, all the different times that Catherine was expecting her life to play out like stereotypical novel tropes was just great. xD

  3. I liked this one. I think it was the third Austen novel I read/listened to. (The free recordings are good) The themes are a little similar to the novel I’m writing at the moment. I did find the end a little unsatisfying. I hadn’t realized that I was there yet and then it summarized and wrapped up really quickly.

    • Josiah DeGraaf says:

      Yeah; that’s a fair criticism of the book. I did find that it ended really quickly. And especially if you’re listening to it, then you don’t get the benefit of seeing how many pages are left in the book! I think this is my fourth Austen that I’ve read, so I only have two or three more to go.

  4. Another guy who reads Jane Austen! How did you get into reading her work?

    • Josiah DeGraaf says:

      Primarily by being forced to read her in high school. xD The first time I read Pride and Prejudice as a high school freshman I hated it, but then I re-read it two years later, discovered what I’d missed, and have been slowly working through her works ever since. What’s your experience been with her?

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