This is regarded as Jane Austenīs first novel, sold for publication for ten pounds in 1803, when she was 28, bought back by her for the same sum, when it still hadnīt been published in 1816 and finally reached its readers in 1818, one year after Janeīs death.
If my eyes donīt deceive me, the lady in the middle is a portrait of young Jane, shown at her most favourite activity, at a ball in Bath. And that is the main topic of the novel, as well.
Young Catherine Morland from a respected but far from wealthy family in Fullerton, a village in Wiltshire, is invited by the Allens, an elderly, rather rich couple, to accompany them to Bath. Austen describes 17-year-old Catherine as a naive girl, who takes everything and everybody in Bath at face value. She soon is befriended by Isabella Thorpe and suited by her brother John. Austen takes obvious delight in making fun of both. Isabella is vain, heartless, on the constant lookout for Mr Right, whereas poor Catherine has to stand John, the insensitive, bragging bully, although she secretly falls in love with Mr Tinley of Northanger Abbey.
Austenīs satiric eye and sharp wit already show to perfection in this first work of hers, but her love story is not really convincing yet, although a rather clumsy happy ending is waiting for the reader.