Comedy, wit, and a dose of romance while poking fun at the gothic novels of her day are brought to life in this new rendition of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey on audio. New to me narrator, Alison Larkin, included her introductions to the project and paired the novel with Austen’s fun satire, The History of England that she wrote when only fifteen years old.
Northanger Abbey is the adventures of seventeen year old Catherine Morland who accompanies her family’s friends, the wealthy Allens for a stay in Bath. Catherine is one of ten children and with sensible, parents of comfortable income, but no brilliance just a trip of this nature is enough to excite her imaginations. Catherine starts out disappointed at having no acquaintances and then she is introduced to sparkling and witty Henry Tilney. Then she is taken with her new friend, Isabella Thorpe who shares her love for gothic novels. The growing friendship with Isabella doesn’t banish Henry Tilney from her thoughts though soon the arrival of Catherine’s and Isabella’s respective brothers and Henry’s family liven things up in Bath and from there, the Tilney family seat of Northanger Abbey. Misunderstandings, marital machinations, jealousies, and plotting all swirl around the innocent Catherine as she learns where true friendship lies, duty, family loyalty, embarrassing mishaps, and first love.
Catherine’s story is meant to make the reader laugh. It’s not a serious piece as is evidenced by the narrator winking at the reader and inviting him or her to journey along with young Catherine as she goes out into the world for the first time and learns that not everyone can be taken at their word, that her worldview might be wanting, and that naïve or not, young Catherine can spot a worthy hero when she sees one. Henry Tilney is a sparkling and witty young man who sees the folly in others, but it doesn’t change his own cheerful goodness and kindness. He is patient with Catherine even when she pulls a stunt that would put off most people. Catherine comes into her own with the story, but it is also sweetened by a first love that deepens with understanding.
The novel is followed up by a- tongue firmly tucked into cheek- fast moving History of England that is good for giving the reader a glimpse into the early brilliance of a young Jane Austen. The History is a short piece and I do believe those who detest history lessons would get a kick out of this.
Alison Larkin was a good fit for Jane Austen’s works. She brought out the tone and the brilliance of Austen’s wit and the engaging nature of characters and plot. She caught just the way of the characters’ voices and emotions, but also the historical era of the writing.
All in all, I enjoyed this latest opportunity to experience Jane Austen’s work through a brilliant audio rendition. I can easily recommend this one to first timers to Austen or long-time fans alike.