Northanger Abbey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.

Alfred Mac Adam teaches literature at Barnard College–Columbia University. He is a translator and art critic.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593082642
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 60,356
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Austen

Alfred Mac Adam teaches literature at Barnard College–Columbia University. He is a translator and art critic.


Biography

In 1801, George Austen retired from the clergy, and Jane, Cassandra, and their parents took up residence in Bath, a fashionable town Jane liked far less than her native village. Jane seems to have written little during this period. When Mr. Austen died in 1805, the three women, Mrs. Austen and her daughters, moved first to Southampton and then, partly subsidized by Jane's brothers, occupied a house in Chawton, a village not unlike Jane's first home. There she began to work on writing and pursued publishing once more, leading to the anonymous publication of Sense and Sensibility in 1811 and Pride and Prejudice in 1813, to modestly good reviews.

Known for her cheerful, modest, and witty character, Jane Austen had a busy family and social life, but as far as we know very little direct romantic experience. There were early flirtations, a quickly retracted agreement to marry the wealthy brother of a friend, and a rumored short-lived attachment -- while she was traveling -- that has not been verified. Her last years were quiet and devoted to family, friends, and writing her final novels. In 1817 she had to interrupt work on her last and unfinished novel, Sanditon, because she fell ill. She died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, where she had been taken for medical treatment. After her death, her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published, together with a biographical notice, due to the efforts of her brother Henry. Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Author biography courtesy of Barnes & Noble Books.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      December 16, 1775
    2. Place of Birth:
      Village of Steventon in Hampshire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      July 18, 1817
    2. Place of Death:
      Winchester, Hampshire, England
    1. Education:
      Taught at home by her father

Read an Excerpt

From Alfred Mac Adam’s Introduction to Northanger Abbey

Austen writes at the outset of a total metamorphosis of European thought, a moment when every aspect of society was on the verge of mutation. The most obvious change is political: France enters the process of the French Revolution in 1789 and moves into the era of Napoleon, from which it emerges only after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815. France, in only a few years, moves from monarchy to republic to empire and back to monarchy. The spirit of the eighteenth-century Age of Reason, with its emphasis on universal principles (such as “All men are created equal”) turns into the age of Romanticism, when individuals discover they are radically different from one another.

Austen’s sociology too reflects an evolving literary, political, and social reality. Her main characters are not nobles, though some may be members of the titled aristocracy. Catherine Morland is the daughter of a country clergyman; she’s seen nothing of the world until her visit to Bath, a health spa and meeting place for marriageable young men and women, and her subsequent brush with provincial highlife at the grand estate of General Tilney, the father of the clergyman she eventually marries. The novel, as Austen and her contemporaries conceive it, is not concerned with kings and queens but with ordinary people, and one wonders if she had any knowledge of Madame de Lafayette’s The Princess of Cleves (1678), an early transformation of the aristocratic and courtly setting of the romance of chivalry into something very much like the psychological novel. The novel’s task is to make ordinary, usually middle-class characters interesting by creating predicaments for them in circumstances its readers would find reasonably familiar. Austen has a strong cohort of women novelists among her contemporaries who did exactly that; she refers specifically to Cecilia; Or, Memoirs of an Heiress (1782) and Camilla; Or, a Picture of Youth (1796), by Fanny Burney, as well as Belinda (1801), by Maria Edgeworth: The fact that these novels are all named after their heroines certainly influenced Austen, who in its earlier incarnations gave Northanger Abbey the title “Susan” and then “Catherine.”

Again, none of us (we hope!) has ever seen a vampire, a werewolf, or a ghost, though these are standard items in the gothic novel. But many of Austen’s readers would know the tribulations of finding suitable mates and the disasters that beset young people as they try to get on with life. Austen’s England is alien territory insofar as her twenty-first-century readers are concerned, especially its class structure. Marriage, for example, while it could be the happy union of two people who cared for each other, was in Austen’s day really a union of fortunes; in the same way, becoming a clergyman did not necessarily reflect religious fervor: It was a profession like any other. In Northanger Abbey, we see the impoverished Isabella Thorpe desperately trying to find a man who will be able to maintain her in upper-class style, becoming engaged to one (Catherine Morland’s brother James), and instantly throwing him over when a better candidate (Captain Frederick Tilney) appears.

Little does she know that Frederick, a flirtatious rogue and therefore Isabella’s male twin, is simply toying with her, so breaking off with James Morland ultimately leads her to disaster. But James’s parents are relieved when the engagement collapses, because, as Catherine’s mother explains to her in the most precise terms, Isabella Thorpe has no money. The same argument—poor people are not suitable as mates—almost destroys Catherine’s chances of marrying Henry Tilney. Only because his daughter marries into the nobility (a viscount), does General Tilney allow his second son (who will not, because of the laws of primogeniture, inherit his estates) to marry the daughter of a country parson with ten children.

This is what Austen considers the material of novelistic lives: how members of contemporary English society confront the issues of the day and either overcome them (Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney eventually marry) or succumb to them (by the end of the novel, Isabella Thorpe finds herself virtually destitute and without either a fiancé or a wealthy prospect). Because Austen is writing with a comic view of society, her protagonist, Catherine Morland, will triumph, even if this means her author must resort to a deus ex machina to extricate her from her dilemma: General Tilney is so happy his daughter has married a viscount that he decides his second son’s choice of a poor bride is of little importance.

Money, then, is the great variable and the controlling factor in the lives of Austen’s characters, especially her women, because without it they are, in social terms, worthless. This was as true in real life as it was in fiction: Jane Austen fell in love with Tom Lefroy in 1796, but, since she was virtually penniless and her beau an impoverished Irish barrister-to-be, marriage was out of the question, a reality she accepted. That people did fall in love, run away, and live happily ever after was certainly possible in Austen’s day, but such relationships were the exception rather than the rule.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 350 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(159)

4 Star

(98)

3 Star

(64)

2 Star

(16)

1 Star

(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 351 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Clever to Clever Readers (though not necessarily clever minds)

    This book, as even Austen herself would surely admit, does not particularly align with her other novels. It certailny resembles them in regards to the general plot (of woman meets man, something/someone comes between woman and man, eventually woman and man are together) but, as is also the custom with all of Austen's works, bears striking distinction. Northanger Abbey is a book about books, or more specifically the Gothic novels or other fantastic fiction. Perhaps to certain eyes characters in it may seem flat and consequently unappealing. But it is only because Austen had written this as a parody of sorts, making the novel seem as though written for those accustomed to reading Gothic novels themselves, though really for people who expect OTHERS would take everything in the book seriously. She wants her readers to share her own humors with her, and even points out her intentions by reminding her readers: that THESE chracters are characters, and only that.
    Personally, I should recommend it to any appreciative of both Gothic novels themselves and Austen's playful approach to dealing with people who think every time a candle goes out in the night, a knife follows with it.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Norhtanger Abbey

    I have been a big Jane Austen fan since I first read Pride and Prejudice as a ten year old. Since then, my love has only grown. I thought that nothing could top Pride and Prejudice, then I read Northanger Abbey. I love this book! It is funny, sweet, has good morals, endearing characters, and everything else that a good novel needs. I would recommend this to anyone who loved Pride and Prejudice or wished that Persuasion had a bit more spice. It is perfectly lovely, and a piece of work worthy of recognition. Put this in your personal library and read it again and again!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Northanger Abbey

    What seasoned Austen readers know is that Northanger Abbey is written almost entirely in a satirical vein. It is one of Jane Austen's finest displays of wit throughout her writing, poking fun at gothic novels and embellishing with zest. Readers who are only familiar with a few of Austen's works, like the more mainstream Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, may thus be confused by difference in tone of Austen's first novel. It is a splendid way to familiarize oneself with all of Austen's work. Five stars.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2011

    Am I missing something here?

    The book I'm looking to buy is N. Abbey...but the reviews are all for Emma excpet one that's for M. Park. Exactly what novel would I be buying here? Maybe this is a Project Gutenberg moment...?

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2011

    This is not Northanger Abbey

    There is a problem, and I hope B&N fixes it soon. The nookbook download is not of Northanger Abbey but of Penguin's edition of Cicero's Selected Writings...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    My Least Favorite Austen Book.

    Although a nice read, the characters in this book are among the most insipid characters Ms. Austen created. Catherine was too bland. This character was better done in Washington Square by Henry James. I never quite got the attraction to Mr. Tilney. And I must say the most interesting character was Isabella, however atrocious she may have been. If this is your first Austen, don't give up. They're not all this bland.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Jane Austen Classic

    One of Jane Austen's lesser known novels; but still a very good read. The heroine is a bit more fanciful than other Austen characters; but it's interesting to see her discuss/read novels that were popular during that time. Also, the hero doesn't really resist falling in love with her. In fact, the fact that she admits that she favors him makes him like her all the more. This combined with family intrigues, the adventure of discovering a new place (Bath), and Catherine's imagination running away from her at times makes for a fun, slighty mysterious read. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Not Austen`s Best

    This is not Austen`s best novel, but it is sweet and delightful, and witty as ever.
    It is not my favourite book by Austen, and I suppose I might have enjoyed it more, had I read it when I was younger.
    The story is about a young and rather immature girl, who reads too many romantic and ghost stories. On a visit to Bath, she befriends the Tilneys. Father Tilney is very overbearing and strict, his oldest son is a scoundrel, but his two other kids, the charming, funny and intelligent Henry and his lovely sister make up for the other two. Catherine, our young heroine receives an invitation to the Tilney house, hich is rather ancient. She suspects that there are dark secrets lurking behind the family facade ...but are there really or is it simply her imagination? You have to read it to find out.
    It is actually a very funny story. You don`t feel the same love and understanding for the heroine, as you do for Liz Bennett, but Austen intended it that way. Like all her novels, it is a coming of age story, where the main character learns more about herself than she ever expected.
    Recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Light Jane Austen but still very enjoyable

    This is actually one of Austen's first works, she kept it for fifteen years, polishing it. It is her lightest work but it is still very good. Our heroine is Catherine, she is a rather silly young girl who has read too many gothic romances. "The Mysteries of Udolpho" in particular has turned her silly head. She seems to see a gothic mystery everywhere she looks. Catherine soon learns that the world is not all melodrama and eventually matures and marries a very sensible man. What keeps Catherine likable is her capacity to learn from her mistakes. She is certainly the least mature of Austen's heroines but she is never boring. This is a marvelous book to start with if you want to get into Jane Austen, it does not have as many characters or subplots as her other works and it is very breezy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Abbey Roads

    Who knew a vacation trip could turn into such an important event for one girl's life. From the moment the heroine is introduced, up to the very end she is delightful, naïve and fun. The men who come in and out of the tale are a little shady, self centered and of course cause more harm to the poor girl than good in some cases. A delightful visit into another Jane Austen book. I love the interactions between all of the characters, large and small they each bring light, laughter and fun to the tale. The settings shifting through out the book are detailed, fitting and absolutely fabulous. I really want to visit a real abbey some day just to see.it is also thrilling to have a heroine who is balanced between to smart for her own good, and so dumb every step is an accident. The personalities of the other girls in the book bring out the unique qualities of the heroine and show case her in a brilliant light. A very good short read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Another Austen classic

    Not so famous but a great read just the same. I cannot get enough of Jane Austen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2013

    Loved it!!

    Once again Jane Austen steals my heart!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    Good but not great.

    I'm a big fan of Jan Austen and this book is good but it's not great. Worth reading but don't expect the typical Jane Austen greatness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Great!

    I'm 12 and this is such a good book. Im only half way through but it is so good! Great romance story!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    Better thsn what I have been reading lately.

    It was good, but too short.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    Love Jane Auston

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    My favorite Austen novel.

    As stated, this is my favorite Austen novel. It's the reason for my love of books. I read this back in the 3rd grade, and have loved reading ever since.

    I admire the way that Catherine Morland's mind just gets the best of her when she reads Mrs. Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho.

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  • Posted January 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Her Best Novel!

    4 1/2 stars:
    Northanger Abbey is my favorite book out of all Jane Austen's works. I really liked Catherine, and her wide open heart and indomitable spirit. She was so easy to relate to and likable. All her adventures were interesting and kept me turning the pages. Catherine was defiantly my favorite Jane Austen heroine and out of all Austen's male character's, Henry Tilney is my favorite because he isn't pretentious (like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice), there is a lot of dialogue between the two (unlike Darcy- P&P and Captain Wentworth- In Persuasion) and there's a type of friendship between them. Overall, I really enjoyed the whole book and would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys classic literature with heart and humor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2010

    Question about the Cover

    I read this a long time ago and no longer have the book. I didn't care much for the story but I love the cover art. Does anyone know the name of the artist? I want to see more art like that on the cover of the book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    Best Ever!

    This is my favorite Jane Austen book ever! Love reading it. I couldn't put it down, I wanted to see what happened next!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 351 Customer Reviews

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