Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen

Review by Edward Tanguay
May 18, 1996

First of all, what is a Pump Room?

Oh, it was nice to read another Austen novel and experience the fine world of manners and grace and politeness and a fresh, young girl as she is presented to society in 18th century England . . . but this book didn't have any special pull (except the Gothic horror stuff in the middle--now THAT started to get interesting!). Austen's later book Emma is a trillion times better, there is more psychology and characterization going on in Emma, and the plot is must more complicated and fascinating to follow. Northanger Abbey is tiny and simple compared to Emma, but it shows Austen's potential and sets the form for her later novels. I enjoy the language of that century as in Fielding, Swift, Lord Chesterfield as well: it's not so far removed as Shakespeare so that you have to look up every other word and constantly refer to footnotes to enjoy it, but it is far enough away from today's usage to make it stand out and be appreciated no matter what the plot is.

I don't feel that the plot of this story was intense enough to really comment on. It was just a plot like a couple moves on a chess board-- she moves to Bath, he likes her, she likes him, they do this, they do that, they break up, she moves there, he goes away, and she moves back, and so on. It was all fine and good with a happy ending but nothing special. This book seemed like an experiment of Austen's, not like a attempt at a novel. The whole Gothic story in the middle is bizarrely placed. All it did for me was get me fired up to read a good and gory Steven King novel, or a psychological Edgar Allan Poe short story! Would I recommend Northanger Abbey to anyone? No. Read something else by Austen. Her novel-writing skill just doesn't shine yet in this one.

Edward Tanguay

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