Review: Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

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Internationally best-selling crime writer Val McDermid has riveted millions of readers worldwide with her acutely suspenseful, psychologically complex, seamlessly plotted thrillers. In Northanger Abbey, she delivers her own, witty, updated take on Austen’s classic novel about a young woman whose visit to the stately home of a well-to-do acquaintance stirs her most macabre imaginings, with an extra frisson of suspense that only McDermid could provide.

Cat Morland is ready to grow up. A homeschooled minister’s daughter in the quaint, sheltered Piddle Valley in Dorset, she loses herself in novels and is sure there is a glamorous adventure awaiting her beyond the valley’s narrow horizon. So imagine her delight when the Allens, neighbors and friends of her parents, invite her to attend the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh as their guest. With a sunny personality, tickets every night and a few key wardrobe additions courtesy of Susie Allen, Cat quickly begins to take Edinburgh by storm and is taken into the bosom of the Thorpe family, particularly by eldest daughter Bella. And then there’s the handsome Henry Tilney, an up-and-coming lawyer whose family home is the beautiful and forbidding Northanger Abbey. Cat is entranced by Henry and his charming sister Eleanor, but she can’t help wondering if everything about them is as perfect as it seems. Or has she just been reading too many novels? A delectable, note-perfect modern update of the Jane Austen classic, Northanger Abbey tells a timeless story of innocence amid cynicism, the exquisite angst of young love, and the value of friendship.

Things I love: Jane Austen, Scotland, History, Vampires

Things this book has: Jane Austen, Scotland, History, Vampires

I’d heard about this series ages ago – before they were actually published I believe – but it took me awhile to get around to reading them which is a shame. This one is fast paced, sticks to the theme of Jane Austen (woman is thrown into new circumstances, meets attractive boy, meets a friend who she thinks is great, said friend has a brother who is out to ruin her, said friend turns out not who she says but woman gets happily ever after as well as the secret that nearly ruins her). I might have known exactly what was going to happen throughout the book, but it was absolutely riveting nonetheless and I kept going wanting to know what would happen, how things would happen. Done perfectly the book while keeping true to Jane Austen it was modern enough that it didn’t feel like it was just rewriting the original novel.

McDermid, mixed in modern day Scotland from the Book Fair to the locations with ease.

Now that wasn’t to say it was perfect in any way. There are certainly bits that annoyed me – the constant texting back and forth using netspeak? Yes they’re teenagers in 2015, but I just even in my mid 20s had to take a moment and actually sit back to try and figure out what they were talking about at times. The obsession with Twilight? Sure there is a fascination with Vampires and gothic mysteries but it might have gone a bit too overboard at times to the point I was rolling my eyes while I read certain passages of the book.

General Tilney & idiot!boy (John Trollope). I wanted to smack them. Yes, that was the point but you’d think her friends and he would actually take the chance to talk things through rather than jumping to conclusions. That bit was probably one of the more, frustrating aspects of the novel.

I think I came in expecting to enjoy the book but otherwise didn’t have high expectations, I wasn’t expecting literary greatness. As much as I enjoy McDermid’s books she isn’t Austen but in fact, a crime writing and this is aimed for young adults. So overall I think it was a fairly enjoyable read.

★ ★ ★ ★ / 5

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