Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm not sure why this novel is considered the "lesser" of the Austen novels. It's brilliantly funny and contains wonderful satire of the gothic romance novels popular at the time and the silly games that suitors play with one another. Through the character of Isabella Thorpe, Austen reveals the damages that can come from a deceptively manipulative friendship. It is only when our heroine Catherine Morland becomes independent from Isabella's influence that she can realize that she wasn't a true friend at all.
I have great affection for Catherine Morland. It is true that she's the least intelligent of Austen's heroine's but that's because this is a true coming of age story. We get to see her journey from naive young girl, to an independent young women, through her profound life experiences. And Henry Tilney is a great hero because even when he is amused and befuddled by Catherine, he does everything he can spare her feelings and to lead her in the sensible direction. Plus he's really funny.
It has been years since I'd read this book and I forgot how many of Austen's best quotes come from it! Here are just a few:
"But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way."
"Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love."
"I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible."
Catherine's thoughts on reading History:
"I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all – it is very tiresome: and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention. The speeches that are put into the heroes’ mouths, their thoughts and designs – the chief of all this must be invention, and invention is what delights me in other books."
And my all time favorite Austen quote, as spoke by the wonderful Henry Tilney:
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid."