Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey is a Jane Austen novel that I learned to appreciate as I grew older.  I loved the parody of the gothic romance, but also loved the sensitivity and wit of Henry Tilney.  I also loved how Catherine Morland is a teenager out in the world for the first time by herself and how she learned the hard lessons of who are your true friends.  I was excited to hear that author Val McDermid was going to write an update of Northanger Abbey, but I wasn’t sure how this novel could be updated to modern times.

I think Val McDermid did an excellent job with the translation to modern times.  Instead of gothic romance, “Cat” Morland loves Twilight and the vampire genre.  She loves to read, but also longs for an adventure of her own.  Growing up in Piddle Valley as the homeschooled daughter of a Vicar, Cat has lived a very sheltered life.  She is very excited to be invited by her neighbors, the Allens to attend the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.  Mr. Allen is a scout for top new plays to bring to London.  He has been ill so his wife Susie wants to go to Edinburgh with him to watch over him.  She does not enjoy the same entertainment as him so she wants to bring along Cat to keep her company.

While in Edinburgh, Cat meets the handsome Henry Tilney through learning Scottish dances at a dance school.  She also meets the Thorpe family and becomes good friends with one daughter, Bella.  She is not as enamored by Bella’s brother Johnny and is surprised to learn that her brother James knows the Thorpe family and Bella quite well.  Cat learns more about the Tilney family and starts to think their lives match one of her vampire gothic novels.  Is everything the way it seems?

I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was a great update.  Putting the vampire novels and social media into the book worked really well.  Also having Cat a homeschooled girl from a small town explained a lot of her naiveté.  I also loved the secondary star of the novel,   Edinburgh.  Fans of the original will know that the trip was to Bath, but Edinburgh worked quite well in this novel.  The festival sounds fantastic – I would love to attend!!

Overall, a great update to a great classic.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library


  1. Sounds fun! Henry Tilney was always one of my favorite Austen heroes!

  2. This updated version does sound very good, Laura! Wonderful review as always.

  3. I've read a few mixed reviews but as a NA fan, I think I want to give this one a whirl. Your review definitely makes it sound like a lark--good summer reading!

    And yes, modernizing NA would be a challenge though the link to Twilight is spot on.

  4. I'm not sure Northanger Abbey needs to be updated! But, redoing Jane Austen is the trend these days. This one does sound promising though. Great review.

    2 Kids and Tired Books

  5. I read other reviews after I published mine and noticed that there were many mixed reviews on it. I hold steadfast with my review though - I thought it was a great modern take. If any of you pick it up and review it - post a link to your review. I'd love to read your thoughts!

  6. Also Henry Tilney is also one of my favorite Austen Heroes as well!