Northanger Abbey: The Forgotten Jane Austen?

Most of the time, when people mention Jane Austen, they immediately think of Pride and Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. True diehards will mention Emma and Persuasion. Mansfield Park occasionally creeps into the discussion.

Personally, I enjoyed Northanger Abbey much more than Persuasion and Mansfield Park. But, in my experience, very few people ever bring up Northanger Abbey.

Why is that?

Perhaps it’s because Northanger Abbey was the first book that Jane Austen wrote but the last one published, her style of writing clearly had evolved over the years as well as her ability to dissect human behavior within the social structure within Regency era upper class.

Or perhaps it’s because Northanger Abbey has a very different storyline. Jane Austen seemed to be making a satirical commentary on the Gothic novels that were popular at the turn of the century. Despite the satire, Jane Austen’s first novel is a love story that, in many ways, is the most believable and true-to-life of all her novels.

Consider both John Thorpe and Henry Tilney, the former who is rather forward in his affections toward Catherine while the latter is much more restrained, leaving Catherine Morland wondering whether or not he does care for her as more than friend. Underlying the romance is John Thorpe’s quest to better himself—he thinks Catherine will inherit money—and Henry Tilney who has money but is rather understated about it.

I don’t know about you but, in my life, far too often I encounter fortune seekers, people who look for quick “Get Rich” schemes or try to rise to fame and fortune by taking short cuts. In some circles, especially with the younger generation, it’s expected that they will be rich and, when forced to work for it, they baulk. Of course, there are always examples of people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice. But I’m sure that most people have one or two John or Isabella Thorpes in their lives.

As an author, I encounter many people who have the Thorpe Syndrome. They like to take from others but rarely give and, if they do, no matter how reluctantly, it’s usually with a caveat for something in exchange. In a strange way, it’s comforting to me to realize that the Thorpe Syndrome is not new, that such personalities existed in Jane Austen’s time.

And that is what I love the most about Jane Austen’s novels. They are timeless classic, books that transcend time and culture. People who read her novels can relate to the storylines, the characters, and the emotions that Jane Austen evokes in us. And, to me, that’s what a great book ought to do.


Sarah Price’s new book, Newbury Acres, A Modern Retelling of Northanger Abby, is set in Amish society and releases on March 21st, 2017. Click HERE to preorder!

8 Responses to Northanger Abbey: The Forgotten Jane Austen?

  1. Congratulations on the forthcoming of your new book, Sarah. I love the term you’ve coined there – “Thorpe Syndrome”. It’s so true amongst a lot of younger people these days. They want the rewards but don’t seem to understand that they have to work for them.

    I don’t think modern TV talent shows help either. I rarely watch them but it’s my understanding that they offer the lucky winner all sorts of rewards and those that are unsuccessful tend to break down in floods of tears when they get kicked off the show, not wanting to believe that they haven’t got the talent and should really think of another career path.

    Northanger Abbey is one of my re-reads from last year and I’d half forgotten what a fantastic book it is. I’d love to see a decent dramatisation of it. None of them have come up to scratch for me so far, though the most recent is probably the best. One of the UK TV channels showed the one from 1987 just a couple of weeks ago – it was awful!! They’d totally disregarded all of the irony and Catherine’s imagination, fuelled by the novels she read, was portrayed as a series of lurid nightmares, featuring her male acquaintances as the evil villains. I had to give up on it after half an hour!

  2. “Thorpe Syndrome” – Boy, ain’t that the truth! Seen that far too often in my life, sad to say. Such a pity.

    I really like Northanger Abbey too, and agree it is the forgotten book. What a shame! Congrats on the new book, Sarah!

  3. Sarah, Thank you for this reminder. I have Northanger Abbey on my reread list. I will move it to the top.

  4. I can’t wait for this book to come out. I already have it pre-ordered. I only discovered Jane Austen in my early thirties around twenty years ago. However, it’s only six years ago since I read Northanger Abbey for the first time. I kept putting it off, for what reason I don’t know. Now however it’s very near my favorite. I’ve read it four times since then and watched the dvd many times. Even though she started out quite silly I really like Catherine Morland, Putting her beside Isabella Thorpe was genius.

  5. Although I admit to using a version of the Jerry McQuire line of “You complete me” in more than one novel, another cannot “complete” you unless you really know yourself. You must complete you.

  6. There may be many John Thorpes but there are also many Catherine Morlands, who is the most ordinary of Jane Austen’s heroines. Her quirk of believing life can be like novels is echoed today by those who think life is like movies. She is “almost pretty” and very sweet.

Your thoughts are precious!