Book Review: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey
By Val McDermid

My Edition:
Paperback, 343 pages
2014, HarperCollins
ISBN: 9781443424325

Cat Morland lives in a dull little town where nothing ever happens. She craves the adventure she finds between the pages of her books.  But an opportunity to attend the Edinburgh Festival with family friends gives Cat the opportunity to spice up her life, and when she meets the boisterous Thorpe family and the mysterious Tilneys. When she’s invited to stay at historic Northanger Abbey, she finds herself immersed in a fantasy, but is it all in her head?

This book was my first completed read for Austen Month and it was so much fun. I’ve read the original (and would like to read it again, now that I have a better understanding of where Austen was going with it) and I think McDermid adapted this tale to the 20th (21st?) century perfectly. The modern Cat Morland is just as fanciful and daydreamy as the original, ready to see ghosts and murder and adventure around every corner. The Thorpes are just as overbearing and obnoxious (including Bella Thorpe’s  internet speak like “totes amazeballs” and “OMG.”) The Tilneys are just as charming and mysterious – perhaps maybe even more charming in a modern setting.

Cat is a loveable doofus – she means well, but lets her overactive imagination get her into a bit of crap. But with her honesty and open heartedness she is able to repair the damage she creates. She’s flawed, but charming and it was the right mix to carry me through the story.

I didn’t have high expectations for this novel, since I’ve never read a modern retelling of Austen’s work, but I was sucked into the story right away and hated to put the book down. This book captured the playful, satirical tone of the original (which I seem to understand more every time I read something else related to it) and adapted well to the new century. The ending took a rather unexpected turn, and while I figured McDermid would switch things up a bit, I think it lacked a little bit of weight? Maybe that’s not the right word, but I wasn’t buying her explanation 100%. That said, this was an excellent modernization of Northanger Abbey and I think, even if you’re not already an Austen fan, you might find something to love about this book.

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