Reading Resolution: “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen

23. A book we read in high school/college and hated: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen


List Progress: 6/30

If you had asked me before this reread what Northanger Abbey was about, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a real answer, other than that it was some sort of send-up of Gothic literature and that I hated it. But I also knew that most of that opinion was tied up with a high school teacher that I disliked and I wasn’t sure what my opinion of the book would look like fifteen years later and in a new context. Now having read it as an adult without a chip on her shoulder…it’s cute. It’s not that much more than cute, but it is indeed a very cute book.

Northanger Abbey concerns 17-year-old Catherine who is obsessed with the flashy new pulp genre known as “novels”. She has set up most of her visions about how the world of 19th century England should work based on dramatic heartrending tragedies and scandalous adventures that special young women find themselves entangled in. She goes on a trip with a family friend to the vacation town of Bath and meets some “friends” and a “charming” love interest, which set the stage for her fantasies to spiral out of control. It’s like if a teenager today became convinced she was The Chosen One because she had read a lot of Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

I am happy to say that I find Austen’s prose a lot less grating than I did as a teenager, and it’s easy to get caught up in the light silliness of this teenager being dramatic for drama’s sake. The book won’t be one of my favorites, it hasn’t impacted my life or blown my mind, but I can safely say I no longer truly hate this book. The ending was incredibly rushed and token, like Austen realized she was bored of writing it and slapped together something to fill the last two chapters, but even that’s not egregiously bad, just kind of annoying.

Maybe I’m more mature now. Maybe I’ve worked around enough teenagers as an adult to be charmed by the drama. Or maybe I just don’t have that English teacher to hate anymore. But no matter the reason, my feelings of hatred about Northanger Abbey have cooled from a scowl to a shrug and half-smile, which I would call a victory.

Would I Recommend It: I offer it my most heartfelt “meh”.

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