Introduction and Notes by David Blair, University of Kent.
Northanger Abbey tells the story of a young girl, Catherine Morland who leaves her sheltered, rural home to enter the busy, sophisticated world of Bath in the late 1790s. Austen observes with insight and humour the interaction between Catherine and the various characters whom she meets there, and tracks her growing understanding of the world about her.
In this, her first full-length novel, Austen also fixes her sharp, ironic gaze on other kinds of contemporary novel, especially the Gothic school made famous by Ann Radcliffe. Catherine’s reading becomes intertwined with her social and romantic adventures, adding to the uncertainties and embarrassments she must undergo before finding happiness.