Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen (Naxos AudioBooks) – A Review and Giveaway

Northanger Abbey is the exuberant lesser known child of Jane Austen’s oeuvre. Even though it was her first novel to be completed and sold in 1803, much to Austen’s bemusement it was never published and languished with Crosby & Co for thirteen years until she bought it back for the ten pounds that the publisher had originally paid. It was finally published posthumously together with Persuasion in late 1817. If its precarious publishing history suggests it lacks merit, I remind readers that in the early 1800’s many viewed novels as lowbrow fare and unworthy of serious consideration. In “defence of the novel” Austen offered Northanger Abbey as both a parody of overly sensational Gothic fiction so popular in the late eighteenth-century and a testament against those opposed to novel reading. Ironically, Austen pokes fun at the critics who psha novel writing by cleverly writing a novel defending novel writing. Phew! In a more expanded view it is so much more than I should attempt to describe in this limited space but will reveal that it can be read on many different levels of enjoyment for its charming coming of age story, astute social observation, allusions to Gothic novels and literature, beautiful language and satisfying love story. I always enjoy reading it for the shear joy of its naïve young heroine Catherine Morland, charmingly witty hero Henry Tilney and the comedy and social satire of the supporting characters. 

It is believed that Jane Austen wrote many of her first works for the entertainment of her family and would read them aloud for their opinion and enjoyment. It is not hard to imagine that Northanger Abbey was presented to her family in this manner. The language and phrasing lends itself so freely to the spoken word, almost like a stage play, that I was quite certain that an audio book would be a great enhancement to the text. Add to that the talent of a creative narrator and you have a great combination for several hours of entertainment ahead of you. I adore audio books and listen to them in the car during my commute to work. This Naxos AudioBooks recording is read by the acclaimed British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson whose performance as the acerbic Mrs. Elton in the 1996 movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma was amazingly as outrageously funny as Austen’s insufferable character. Stevenson’s reading did not disappoint and far exceeded my expectations. She added just the right amount of irony and humor to the reading that I was never in doubt that it is a burlesque of campy Gothic fiction or other overly sentimental novels popular in Jane Austen’s day. Her choice of characterizations was imaginative and captivating. Hearing her interpretation of the emptiness of Mrs. Allen and her frivolous distinction for fashion, Isabella Thorpe and her shallow endearments, and Henry Tilney with his knack for reading and adapting to different personalities with wit and charm, I have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the novel and recommend it highly. 

“And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.” Ch 5

5 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson
Naxos AudioBooks USA (2006)
Unabridged (7) CD’s 8h 17m
ISBN: 978–9626344279

GIVEAWAY CONTEST

Enter a chance to win one copy of a Naxos AudioBooks recording of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey by leaving a comment by midnight PST February 23, 2010 stating who is your favorite character in the novel or movie adaptation of  Northanger Abbey. Winners will be announced on February 24th, 2010. Shipping to continental US addresses only. Good luck!

UPDATE 02/24/10: The giveaway has concluded. The winner was announced. Follow this link to learn if it was YOU!

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52 thoughts on “Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen (Naxos AudioBooks) – A Review and Giveaway

  1. I like this novel because it turns out so satisfactorily. It has been a while since I read it, but in the movie, I appreciated how reasonable the Morlands were. Henry Tilney is a wonderful and honorable man and probably my favorite in the book.

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  2. This is my second favorite Austen novel! My favorite character (I know it’s cliche) is Catherine. Yes, she makes mistakes and jumps to assumptions, but haven’t we all? I love watching her grow throughout the story.

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  3. It is difficult to choose one, by my favorite character in Northanger Abbey is probably the heroine, Catherine Morland. She is so sweet and loving and honest. (I thought that Felicity Jones was nearly perfect as Catherine.) However, I also really like Henry Tilney (especially his sense of humor!) and his sister Eleanor—they are clever, and very kind to Catherine.

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  4. Well how could one NOT vote for a man who has SUCH an excellent understanding of muslin?? I ask you. Honestly.

    And JJ Feild did such a lovely job of portraying him. Sorry to be so unoriginal, but Tilney the younger will always get my vote. :)

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  5. Eleanor Tilney – she is long suffering (what a father!), and an excellent sister, and patient and understanding with young, naive Catherine Morland. She seems like a true excellent friend.

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  6. OMG! Why do I live in Italy? I’ve missed so many opportunities so far… I’d love to win this audiobook. Never mind, Laurel Ann. You’re forgiven since I always discover something interesting and new about Austen and her work each time I visit your wonderful blog!!! Good luck to all the participants. MG.

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  7. Would it be wrong to say it’s Catherine? Because in some ways I can relate to her and that’s why she is my favorite. Wouldn’t mind having a man like her Tilney though :).

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  8. I LOVE Northanger Abbey so there is just too many great characters in it for me! But I supposed I will have to say Mr Tilney for his great sense of humour!

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  9. My entry can’t be counted because I’m Canadian, but I still want to answer the question since Northanger Abbey is my favourite novel :)

    I’m incredibly fond of Catherine. She’s a little Madame Bovary-like in the way that she takes her literature quite seriously, though she has a kindness to her that saves her in the end. I completely relate to Catherine, as often I find myself wondering whether I’m too much the quixotic woman myself, all the time seeking to recreate things I read in literature, and often forgetting that the real world in quite different.

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  10. Confession: I have never listened to an audiobook before. I like the idea of listening to Austen on my way to work, makes the commute much more enjoyable.

    My favorite character is Eleanor. She has her head on and is the kindest friend you could imagine.

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  11. I absolutely love Northanger Abbey, mostly because it’s partly set in Bath. Bath was one of my favorite cities when I lived in England.

    I just love Catherine. She’s that naive ingenue that you just can’t help but like!

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  12. Lovely piece! And Northanger Abbey is truly so much fun.. How I loved the PBS version as well! I totally love HENRY! And his sister too. (*Of course I love them all), but let’s say Henry for today!

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  13. I so wish Jane Austen had seen Northanger Abbey published. I just love the gothic aspect, and there are several characters to admire. Catherine is my favorite, though, because she is so innocent in the beginning of the novel, but grows throughout the story.

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  14. Catherine and Henry have to be my favorite characters. Although John Thorpe has some outrageous lines…naw, still Catherine and Henry! <3

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    • LOL Alexa. Yes, Henry is a man of the cloth – but he is far cry from Mr. Collins. Ack! I imagine Henry’s sermons would be enlightening and witty. That I would sit on a hard wooden pew for. Thanks for visiting, LA

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  15. Northanger Abbey was the first Jane Austen novel I read and (maybe just for that reason) is one of my favorites (along with P&P and Mansfield Park)! I liked it so much that I read The Mysteries of Udolpho (great story, not so great editing!) so that I could try to understand what made it so popular in its day. Catherine is my favorite character (I tend to like Austen’s “good girls”)!

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  16. You’re spoiling us with all these amazing audiobook giveaways, I love it!

    I seem to have a fondness for all of the Austen men, because Henry Tilney is definitely my favorite character in the novel. You can’t go wrong with a witty man who knows his muslin! :)

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  17. I love the recent adaptation. I thought all the actors were brilliant! I especially liked Mr and Mrs Allen; I thought they were a lovely, funny couple.

    My favorite character is a toss-up between Catherine and Henry Tilney because they’re so darn likeable, I can’t choose between them. They’re just simply meant to be together, and it’s so sweet to see. =)

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    • Henry Tilney in the 1986 version of NA was creepy. LOL, and I never thought he was in the novel. That adaptation is unusual and not one of my fav Austen movies. The saxaphone’s in the music just lended to the weirdness. Thanks for your comments Alison.

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  18. This one has been growing on me, but was always the least favorite of her novels. However, I think I was influenced by the over the top BBC adaptation with its hokey music that was done some 20-30 years ago. Since seeing the new adaptation, I gave the novel a second chance and am enjoying it more.

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  19. Mr. Tilney, hands down! Though I think it’s closer to a tie with Catherine — they were both great! The whole cast was great, if you ask me.

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  20. I finally read this book for the first time. I know everyone loves Mr. Tilney, but I have to say Catherine Morland is my favorite character. I love the scene when she opens the drawers expecting to find something mysterious and finds receipts.

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    • Yes, Catherine peering into the ponderous chest expecting something horrid and finding laundry lists is priceless! Makes me giggle just to think of it. One of the best moments in the novel & movie. Thanks for visiting Dana

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  21. I always enjoy anything from Jane Austin, but must admit I had not read this novel before seeing one of the previous movie versions. Thought this movie version was done well, and did fall a little in love with Mr. Tilney. But Catherine is my favorite character.

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    • Only falling a little bit in love with Mr. Tilney just will not do! We do not have a notion of loving him by halves. It’s all or nothin’!

      Glad you enjoyed this adaptation. The book is even better. Thanks for visiting.

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  22. My favorite character is Henry Tilney! I just love how he teases Catherine! He’s adorable! I also love Catherine. I sometimes see myself in her, like how she gets carried away with the books she is reading, and how she will imagine herself in them. I am embarrassed to say I sometimes do that myself.

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  23. Mr. and Mrs. Allen are both such warm, motherly/fatherly people that I’m tempted to name them (can we have a tie for our fave character?), but when all is said and done, it’s got to be Eleanor. She’s like a vision of what Catherine could be when she grows up. She’s certainly someone I’d like to be friends with.

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