Summary: Seventeen year--old daughter of a clergyman, Catherine Morland, leaves her small community with friends Mr. and Mrs. Allen for her first trip to Bath. While there Catherine is introduced to the charming Henry Tilney and becomes friends with his sister Eleanor. She also meets the daughter and son of an old friend of Mrs. Allen, Isabella and John Thorpe. General Tilney invites Catherine to spend time with his daughter Eleanor at their home in Northanger Abbey.
Comments (some spoilers): I came to Northanger Abbey rather late... ie. There was nothing left of Miss Austen's to read but this, so I read it. The first time, I wasn't sure what I thought - it seemed a bit silly, but the second time I started to see that Catherine was an experiment. Described early on as basically a tom boy, she was not set out to do great things, but as she grew older, she became a sweet girl who wanted to look for something new. She was so young and so naieve, but she was slowly learning, sometimes the hard way, what the world was about. She's also been very influenced by her recent reading of Gothic
novels. She has an internal strength that won't let Isabella or John Thorpe or even her beloved brother make her do the improper thing. She has a devotion to Henry Tilney that of course makes it easy for him to love her and a love of Eleanor Tilney as the type of true friend worth having. Were she a bit older, she might be more like Elizabeth Bennet. If that were the case, she would have seen through Isabella very early on, but Catherine has seen so little of the world, that it just wasn't possible. Just like her inability to understand why Captain Tilney acts in the way that he does when it seems so very clear to her that he is in the wrong. But she also has the ability to manage to get home from Northanger Abbey alone when the time abruptly comes.
I just love the description of Mrs. Allen. "Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them." Her fascination with dress and have aquanticenes in Bath, was amusing.
Henry Tilney is the most charming of Austen's heros. From the very beginning he is witty, fun, smart -- and utter charmer. I can see why so many Janeites are on Team Tilney. No brooding Mr. Darcy, no resentful Captain Wentworth here, just a lovely intelligent guy with a fun sense of humor who can't help but fall in love with Catherine since it's so obvious that she is in love with him.
One of my favorite lines after a conversation between Catherine and Miss Tilney: "This civility was duly returned; and they parted -- on Miss Tilney's side with some knowledge of her new acquaintance's feelings, and on Catherine's, without the smallest consciousness of having explained them."
I've made my feeling clear on Isabella and John Thorpe before, so I won't belabor the point
All in all, I've come to enjoy Northanger Abbey and Catherine and Tilney make a lovely couple.