Thursday 5 February 2015

Austen, Jane "Northanger Abbey"

Austen, Jane "Northanger Abbey" - 1818
The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club

This was the fifth book I read with this blog and the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.

The first four novels we discussed were "Pride & Prejudice", "Mansfield Park", "Persuasion" and "Emma" which I have already reviewed earlier here.

If you have not read this novel, I refer you to my more general review here because this one will contain spoilers.

The heroine of this novel is Catherine Morland, a young girl who loves reading gothic novels. We accompany her on her first outing to Bath where she is taken by her neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Allen.

Same as in "Emma", there are not many mother figures in this novel but I think they are more prominent here even though they might be less visible. They might not be mentioned as much but you can see their influence nonetheless.

Non-Mothers with influence on our heroine: Mrs. Allen
Mothers: Mrs. Morland, Mrs. Thorpe,
Mothers not present: Mrs. Tilney

Mrs. Allen
Mrs. Allen has no children of her own and therefore serves as chaperone, takes our heroine Catherine Morland to Bath and tries to introduce her into the society there. This leads to the Thorpe's assumption that Catherine will inherit their wealth. She does not seem to be very organized, though, and small problems of any sort are a major hurdle for her. She means well, though, and really likes Catherine for herself.

Mrs. Morland
Mrs. Morland, Catherine's real mother, certainly is a good and loving woman who wishes her children all the best but in the end is not much better than Mrs. Allen. After all, she lets her daughter go with the latter to a place she does not really know herself. She is quite kind and more practical, though, and probably believes it is for the better to send her daughter away.

Mrs. Thorpe
Mrs. Thorpe, the third mother who has quite an influence on Catherine Morland's life, though not necessarily the way she would like to. She is also not the kind of person you would like to raise your children, seems to be more occupied with herself and her clothes rather than her own children. She is not very successful with their upbringing, either, although she does want what every parent wants: the best for her children.

Mrs. Tilney
We don't really meet Mrs. Tilney as she has been dead for almost a decade before our story even starts. However, she is important to the story and the life of her children and also our heroine Catherine Morland.

I have always thought that "Northanger Abbey" is not comparable to Jane Austen's other novels, it has always been my least favourite. However, in rereading it, the story definitely grew on me and I came to like Catherine Morland who seemed to become a good kind of person despite all the mother figures (or shall we say non-mother figures) in her life. I do prefer her own mother over all the others but that is not necessarily a praise.

From the back cover: "Catherine Morland is an Austen heroine unlike any other--youthful and naive, with a lively imagination fed by the popular Gothic novels she so loves to read. But when Catherine meets the wealthy and charming Henry Tilney during a vacation in Bath, and visits his family's sinister and mysterious estate, she begins to suspect that some of the dark doings she's read about just might be true... One of Austen's earliest works, Northanger Abbey offers fascinating insights into her perspective as a writer and a reader. The world's greatest works of literature are now available in these beautiful keepsake volumes. Bound in real cloth, and featuring gilt edges and ribbon markers, these beautifully produced books are a wonderful way to build a handsome library of classic literature. These are the essential novels that belong in every home. They'll transport readers to imaginary worlds and provide excitement, entertainment, and enlightenment for years to come. All of these novels feature attractive illustrations and have an unequalled period feel that will grace the library, the bedside table or bureau."

Other Jane Austen novels I have read with regard to Motherhood:
"Emma" - 1816
"Mansfield Park" - 1814
"Northanger Abbey" - 1818
"Persuasion" - 1817
"Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
"Sense & Sensibility" - 1811

Find a link to all my Jane Austen reviews here.

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.


  1. The first time I read Northanger Abbey I didn't like it at all, thought Catherine was just too wishy-washy and easily led. I liked it better the 2nd time and by the 3rd reading I liked it very much. I came to see how she was mocking gothic novels and finally learned to really like Catherine.

  2. This is actually one of my favorites of Austen's novels. I like Catherine, the main reason being I see myself a lot in her, much as I hate to admit it. However, Mr. Tilney steals the book for me. He is the Austen hero I would want to marry (Mr. Knightley is a close second). He's funny, kind, and even though he sees Catherine's naivety he still is friends with her and works to improve her. He's not afraid to reprove her either.
    Catherine really does lack good parental figures though, as you said, but I think her parents were decent enough. :)

  3. Thank you for your comments, Janet and Lois, it's always great to be able to talk about the books I read. I did it with this one on Facebook already but this is different.

    Anyway, I am glad I'm not the only one who didn't like it the first time round. I might not have read this again (or nat as fast) if it hadn't been for the group but I am really happy I did. I do understand what you mean, Lois, about seeing a lot of yourself in her, for me that person is Anne Elliot and I really admire Captain Wentworth for his determination. But I do like Henry Tilney, too, how he stands up to his father.

    I also agree about the parents, yes, they were decent and probably better than a lot of parents back then (or even today).

    This is one thing I love so much about Jane Austen, she has been dead for over 200 years, she was unmarried, had no children, and yet her novels are as up to date today as they probably were back then.

    Thanks for your contribution.