“It is only a novel... 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
You must bear with me. As "Northanger Abbey" was the first Austen novel I ever read, I cannot help but to feel a faint hint of nostalgia about it. After all, it was this book that introduced me to the greatest writer of all-time.
"Northanger Abbey" seems to be the black sheep among Austen's works and people tend use words and phrases such as "immature writing" and "weirdly gothic" when describing it.
It is of course a fact that "Northanger Abbey" (originally entitled "Susan", I believe) is one of Austen's earlier creations, and therefore fades in comparison to Austen's later novels, which are more developed in their style and naturalistic writing. But isn't that just obvious? You can hardly criticize Austen for developing her writing skills through years and years of experience. One should not judge a novel by its successors, but instead allow the book to speak for itself.
This novel does indeed hold several odd gothic elements of terror and horror. However it is of course a parody, and a very clever one at that. The gothic twist is not designed to hold up the plot, merely to sustain it. Austen actually mocks and educates her reader, and if you look closely, you will find a whirlwind of references to both gothic and naturalistic works, demanding an extensive knowledge of Fielding, Burney, Edgeworth and their likes. The intellectual value in "Northanger Abbey" is priceless.
Criticism aside, this is such an enjoyable book. Catherine Morland and her naivety is so endearing, and always makes me feel very protective of her. John Thorpe and his obnoxious sister represents the best of Austen's villains, while the Tinley's remains as their true opposites.
I really do think Henry Tinley is quite an underestimated Austen hero. He may not be as passionate and dramatic as Darcy, but he is such an honest and simply likable character. He always comforts Catherine and is so attentive to her needs, that they really do seem like the ideal couple. I can easily imagine their idyllic everyday life. That's how sincere and believable their relationship is.