Northanger Abbey

Written by:
Jane Austen
Narrated by:
Anna Massey

Abridged Audiobook

Release Date
May 2017
2 hours 23 minutes
Jane Austen wrote about situations with which she was familiar and the social life of Bath was no exception. Northanger Abbey concentrates on the interaction between three families which are all very different. The Morlands are respectable but have little education, while the Tilneys are wealthier and more sophisticated. The Thorpes, however, are vulgar social climbers of whom both the Morland and the Tilneys fall foul. The clarity with which the families' differing values are depicted adds to the realism of the novel.
1. AN UNROMANTIC HEROINE. Catherine Morland's early life does not equip her to be a romantic heroine. When the Allens, the Morlands' well-to-do neighbours, invite Catherine to accompany them to Bath, she is delighted. However, her first ball is a disappointment because the Allens cannot provide her with a partner. At the next ball, the master of ceremonies introduces her to a young clergyman, Henry Tilney. She hopes to see him again next day but instead, Mrs. Allen meets Mrs. Thorpe, an old school friend, and Catherine becomes acquainted with her daughter Isabella.

2. INTIMATE FRIENDS. Isabella and Catherine both enjoy sensational gothic novels, but the latter does not share the former's interest in men. As the girls pursue two young gentlemen who have caught Isabella's eye, they come across their brothers, John Thorpe and James Morland, who are at Oxford together. John asks Catherine to be his partner at the ball that evening. She regrets this when Henry Tilney later asks her to the dance, but welcomes the acquaintance of Henrys sister, Eleanor. Isabella, meanwhile, ignores Catherine and only has eyes only for James.

3. HORIZONS BROADENED. The next evening's entertainment goes better for Catherine. Henry asks her to the dance, but John boorishly interrupts, making claims on her, which she denies. Henry likens dancing to matrimony, but Catherine disagrees with him. His father, General Tilney, sees them together and makes enquiries about Catherine. Eleanor and Harry invite Catherine to accompany them on a country walk, where they discuss the extremely popular gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho. Henry teases Catherine about her unimaginative use of language, which reveals her lack of education. Eleanor declares that Henry treats her in exactly the same way.

4. GREAT NEWS. Isabella announces her engagement to James. Catherine is astonished but overjoyed, and is taken in by in Isabella's repeated declarations that money means nothing to her. John makes a clumsy, half-hearted proposal to Catherine, but she rebuffs him. General Tilney and Eleanor invite Catherine to visit them at their home, Northanger Abbey. She eagerly accepts, hoping to see more of Henry, and fantasises about their gothic mansion. At the pump-room, Catherine is distressed when Isabella blatantly flirts with Frederick Tilney, Henry's brother.

5. A FICKLE GIRL. Catherine asks Henry to speak to Frederick. He refuses to interfere, however, saying that if she believes Isabella's attachment to James is genuine, there is no need to worry. Henry drives Catherine to Northanger Abbey and teases her about the terrors she may encounter there. On arrival, she is disappointed to find that the house is modernised and comfortable.

6. DOES EVIL ABOUND? On Catherine's first night at the Abbey there is a storm and her imagination runs wild. She searches the locked cabinet in her room but all she finds is an inventory of linen. Next morning, General Tilney shows her around the house, but prevents her from entering the apartment where his wife died. Eleanor explains that her mother's illness was sudden and Catherine fears foul play. That evening, General stays up late until the girls have retired. Catherine now suspects that he keeps his wife locked away and secretly takes her food at night. Resolving to discover the truth, she enters Mrs. Tinley's room only to find it bright, cheerful and empty. Filled with shame at her wild imaginings, Catherine is about to rush to her own room when she hears footsteps approaching.

7. TRUTH EXPOSED. Catherine meets Harry on the stairs. He realises her suspicions and explains the perfectly normal circumstance of his mother's death. Catherine believes that she has forfeited his regard. Next morning, she receives a letter from James saying that Isabella is now to marry Frederick. A second letter follows in which Isabella claims that a misunderstanding has occurred between herself and James, and asks Catherine to intercede on her behalf. Catherine at last sees through her false friend's behaviour.

8. MERCENARY MOTIVES. General Tilney is called away to London, but returns unexpectedly and orders Catherine to leave Northanger Abbey. Devastated, she fears that she will never see Henry again, but he follows her home to Fullerton and declares his love. Henry explains that John Thorpe had misled General Tilney by telling him that Catherine was an heiress. After being informed to the contrary by the same man, the General wrongly felt that Catherine had deceived them. The couple cannot marry without the General's consent, but luckily Eleanor weds a man of great wealth and this pleases her father so much that he agrees to Henry's penniless match.
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