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This is Jane Austen's lighthearted lesson in what you get for reading too many gothic novels. It is a mark of the astonishing talent of the woman, however, that even a flippant swipe at the trashy reading of the day turned out to be an elegant if extremely funny classic.
Catherine Morland is another one of those Austen girls who, in spite of her gloriously ironic portrait as a romantic heroine in training, ends up being someone whose story you'd follow to the end of the world, or at least until the end of the book. And the villains and suitors of the piece somehow acquire those extra 16 layers that Austen cannot help herself from writing.
This is as blithe and merry a piece of gothic horror as you’ll get, and at the same time as you're grinning at the terrifying manuscript Catherine finds in her bedroom turning out to be the laundry lists, you’ll be delighting in the sheer brilliance of the first of Jane Austen's great novels.