The protagonist is seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland. She is invited to spend some time with family friends in Bath where she meets Henry Tilney, and the two fall in love with each other. However, she soon finds herself in a love triangle, with not only Tilney, but another young gentleman called John Thorpe pursuing her. Catherine soon travels to Northanger Abbey, a place she imagines to be beautiful and mysterious based on the Gothic novels she loves to read so much and she has all sorts of adventures that she engages into because of the romantic notions taken from her books. The novel has a happy ending, but until that the reader is in for a lot more adventures and detours.
Northanger Abbey is not only the very first, but perhaps also the most charming of all Jane Austen novels. The plot is driven by a sweet, romantic and naïve young lady, but the book is full of witty comments and comic elements that unmask the hypocrisy, the snobbery and the shallow social customs of Austen's times. In the beginning, Catherine has a hard time trying to decipher the complex communication strategies employed by almost everyone around her, especially as she is probably the only character in the entire novel who does not pretend to be anything else or anything more than she is, but little by little she learns the value of things and she finds out a lot about the power of wealth as well. Coming of age in this case also means the loss of a lot of dreams, but Catherine develops into a responsible and clever young lady able to have real feelings, that is sure.