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Northanger Abbey is fundamentally a parody of Gothic fiction. Austen turns the conventions of eighteenth-century novels on their head, by making her heroine a plain and undistinguished girl from a middle-class family, allowing the heroine to fall in love with the hero before he has a serious thought of her, and exposing the heroine's romantic fears and curiosities as groundless. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin speculates that Austen may have begun this book, which is more explicitly comic than her other works and contains many literary allusions that her parents and siblings would have enjoyed, as a family entertainment - a piece of lighthearted parody to be read aloud by the fireside. Northanger Abbey exposes the difference between reality and fantasy and questions who can be trusted as a true companion and who might actually be a shallow, false friend. It is considered to be the most light-hearted of her novels.
- H&F, July 2013
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