So we have our girl Catherine Morland, one of ten Morland siblings. She’s the son of a preacher man, so that’s cool. She starts out life as a tomboy, but gets over that by the time she turns fifteen. Now seventeen, she gets to go on a sweet vacation to Bath with her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Allen. Mr. Allen is going for his gout, and Mrs. Allen wants Catherine to go for company. I suppose Mrs. Allen also knows that going on a six-week vacation would be boring as hell with no one but her husband to talk to, and Mrs. Allen likes to talk, mostly about her fancy duds. Oh, and before I forget, Catherine is sweet-natured, affectionate, and gullible AF. (At first I wasn’t sure why we opened with her tomboyishness, but I suppose it’s to show that she really doesn’t have many ‘accomplishments’ to entice the fellas.)
Sometime in the first week, Catherine dances with a man named Henry Tilney. He seems clever and pretty chill, but then he skips town for a while. (No worries, he’ll be back.) Mrs. Allen is discovered by an old acquaintance, a Mrs. Thorpe, who has some kids, Isabella and John and some other ones. (The family is not exactly rolling in dough.) Isabella (who affectionately calls Catherine “creature,” but it’s cool) and Catherine soon become besties. Turns out Catherine’s brother James and Isabella’s brother John have been besties for a while, so everything is cool.
We soon realize that John and Isabella exaggerate the truth to the point of outright lying and are super manipulative. We can see it, but our girl Catherine is so trusting and not used to it that she believes the siblings, to a point. She slowly realizes that James may be nice, but not her favorite, but she’ll hang with him for the sake of her brother and her friend. We can also see that James and Isabella are wanting to hook up, but Catherine is a bit slow on the uptake.
Henry Tilney comes back to town, this time with his sister Eleanor. Eleanor is the right kind of people, and Catherine quickly becomes besties with her too. (We get to see that Henry is feeling it with Catherine, but she doesn’t get to know yet.) But the Thorpe siblings are not cool with that, and John straight up lies to our girl Catherine to make her break a promise to hang out! And then he basically kidnaps Catherine in his ride for a few hours! Not cool, man. The next time John tries that lying move, she flat out denies him and keeps her plans to chill with Henry and Eleanor. She also does not trust John as much. We find out that Isabella and James agreed to hook up officially, and James went to get permission from his parents. They think it’s cool, and mostly everyone is happy. But then Isabella finds out how much cash will be doled out for them to live on (and it’s not a lot) and Isabella is suddenly not feeling it anymore. (She was in it for the cash she thought James and Catherine had!) I guess there were assumptions that James and Catherine were rolling in it, or maybe that Catherine would get some sweet bills from the Allens when they kicked it, but that isn’t so. John is still trying to hook up with Catherine, but she’s oblivious. And then Henry’s brother swings in and starts to get with Isabella, and she’s about it! (Not cool.) Catherine can tell that something isn’t right, but no one’s going to do anything about it.
Anyway, Eleanor invites Catherine to come hang at their house for a few weeks, Northanger Abbey. Catherine is stoked, because she’s been reading “horrid novels,” aka Gothic novels, which often involve spooky shit. (Early in the book, the narrator goes on about novels, and how they get no respect, but they’re obviously cool, ‘cause we’re reading one. Then John says he hates novels, so we know straight off the bat that he’s not chill. But Henry loves novels, and Eleanor gets to share her love of history, and there’s a pretty sweet conversation.) I had a feeling earlier, and then it comes back, that Henry might be an author of some “horrid novel” himself. He’s very good at spinning a spooky story on the way to the Abbey. (As far as we know, he’s not. Missed opportunity!) (Catherine strikes me as the sort who would love Halloween and haunted houses and horror movies.) As a difference between siblings, I feel like Isabella and John would play a joke on Catherine to laugh at her, but Henry and Eleanor might play one to laugh with her. There’s a difference.
Well, now our girl Catherine is at Northanger Abbey, and she has all sorts of wack expectations, like ghosts and crumbling ruins. The power of suggestion is strong with this one. Catherine gets all sorts of spooked out on the first night in her room, mostly thanks to Henry’s spooky story, but then she takes it too far. Looking for secret passages and evidence of past misdeeds is all well and good, but Catherine’s imagination brings it way past the line. Every little thing that happens makes Catherine think that it’s all part of some Gothic novel nonsense, and she eventually gets called out by Henry. Imagining yourself in a Gothic novel is all well and good until it has the potential to start hurting people, and Henry makes sure she knows she did the Tilney’s dirty, if only in her mind. (Honestly, this part of the novel seemed to go on for a bit too long, and is a bit far-fetched. Can anyone really be that dumb?) Actually, people really can. Catherine is the Queen of Oblivious, which I guess can be seen as charming? Anyway, for the most part Henry digs it, and flat out talks about marrying Catherine in front of her and Eleanor, but Catherine doesn’t get it. I guess when you see all the shady things going down, especially with Isabella, having a girl who’s a bit slow on the uptake but means well is still pretty good. To Catherine, the thought of being deceitful or hurting someone or doing something wrong is inconceivable. Her worst crime is trusting too much and having her imagination run away with her. (Today, we would say to protect her at all costs, and to keep her away from the Comments section of anything online. Bless her heart.)
After Catherine has been told what’s what with her crazy thoughts, she gets a letter from her brother James. His engagement with Isabella is off, because she’s been acting like a ho, and with Captain Frederick Tilney, Henry and Eleanor’s brother! James thinks that Isabella is now engaged to Freddie, and Catherine believes him, although Henry and Eleanor find that story shady. Things move on, the family visits Henry’s crib at Woodhouse, and Catherine really digs it, but is afraid of expressing her opinion. She also has a habit of thinking everything is her fault and that everyone else is right. Get some self esteem, girl!
Henry and Eleanor’s dad, the General, takes off for Town for a bit, but then rushes back to pretty much kick Catherine out! He was all sorts of approving before, and won’t even see Catherine to boot her out of his house. He doesn’t even send her with a servant to accompany her. Cold, man, cold. And Catherine has no idea why. She blames herself, of course, but can’t seem to stretch even her poor self-esteem that far. She makes it home fine, her momma tells her to stop worrying, and that the whole thing makes the General look bad. Henry shows up to Catherine’s house, and when he gets her to himself for a second, apologizes for his father’s behavior and proposes to her! All is fine and dandy. Catherine’s parents approve, on the condition that Henry’s dad does too, which takes a while. It takes Eleanor getting hitched to some fancy pants lord or something, that part seems a little weird in the story. Kind of like a “well, good things happened to this other person, but we can’t introduce someone new this late, so… yeah…” There’s a very tenuous line in there, but it’s author bullshit and everyone knows it. Oh, but we do get to find out what made the General act like a jackass. It’s all that damn fool John Thorpe’s fault! When he thought he was going to get with Catherine back in Bath, he played up her fortune and circumstance, enough to impress the General. The General didn’t know that John was an exaggerating liar. And later on, when the General saw John in Town, John exaggerated and lied in the other direction, making Catherine out to be a desperate fortune hunter! You did our girl dirty, John. Shame on you. And shame on the General for not checking facts! (I feel like the General would repost fake bullshit on Facebook without even thinking it might be wrong.) So here’s to hoping the Thorpes got everything they deserved and then some!
Review inspired by the “Pride and Prejudice” episode of Thug Notes!
This fulfills the CBR11 Bingo square of “Classics” Also, the Audible cast did a lovely job!