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Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey (2014)

by Val McDermid

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Austen Project (2)

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3882241,752 (3.26)51
  1. 10
    Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope (dizzyweasel)
    dizzyweasel: Another book in The Austen Project, wherein popular contemporary authors take on Jane Austen's novels and "update" them for the modern world. Not as wonderful or as complex as the originals, but fun re-imaginings.

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» See also 51 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
This book was *fun* ... but at the same time, felt like McDermid literally copy pasted the original text into a word processor and just did some find-and-replace to change things just slightly. This read like Austen with some additional social media angles (and the much-maligned text-speak) but what really needed to be updated were some plot issues.

For instance: (spoiler tagged even though these are all plot elements of the original novel)

- why does nobody find it odd that two grown men -- practicing lawyers -- would be so immediately attracted to a girl they know full well is 17?

- this may be passable in a Pretty Little Liars/Rosewood/creeper manner, if Cat wasn't also a sheltered, homeschooled, naive innocent who's never been out of her little town before in her life, making her act far younger than 17

- Bella and James get engaged right away, despite not even dating first? And Cat's (and everyone's) response is just to be happy for them? And not wondering, why don't they go on a date first? Or move in?

- The weird focus on getting married and family money may make some sense in a Gossip Girl sort of way, maybe, but the Allens' and Bella's focus on family wealth and making a good marriage read as more Regency era than 21st century

And on top of that, and this is probably an element of the not-very-popular original novel, but the plot is all over the place. In pre-publication interviews, this book was described as being reimagined as a teen suspense thriller (and hence McDermid's involvement) but the "suspense" elements (are the Tilneys really VAMPIRES??) is never a real threat, as even Cat knows she's being silly to suspect that.
( )
  annhepburn | Mar 4, 2018 |
Awful. Reads like a teenage romance. Couldn’t finish it.
  ramrak | Jan 1, 2018 |
McDermid follows Austen's plot faithfully, transposing it from Bath to the Fringe Festival in Edinborough, where teenage Cat Morland has been brought for a month by her neighbors, the Allens. In Edinborough she meets the Thorpes: the oldest sister, Bella, professes to be head-over-heels for Cat's older brother James, and Cat and Bella become fast (but superficial) friends. Cat is interested in Henry Tilney, with whom she is partnered to learn Scottish dancing, but Bella's brother John - an arrogant misogynist - keeps butting in. Nevertheless, Cat makes friends with Henry's sister Ellie and gets an invitation to join them at Northanger Abbey, where her imagination runs away with her, creating deep dark family secrets where there are none. That is Cat's gift, or curse: she sees what isn't there, and - sometimes - doesn't see what is.

This is a satisfying read. The dialogue is sometimes oddly formal, especially juxtaposed with modern teen slang in text messages and social media posts, but that echoes Austen. It's a little curious, as well, that grown men are so seriously interested in teenage girls. All in all, though, McDermid pulls off the adaptation beautifully, and wraps up all the loose ends with a very quick epilogue.


"Harry Potter? Even little kids don't believe Harry Potter's for real. You can't long for something you know is totally fantasy. It's got to feel real before you can believe it could happen to you." (Cat to her father, 11)

Cat had serious doubts about poets. She firmly believed that while some could thrill and excite, too many failed the fundamental test of communicating with their readers. The more obscure their verses, the more praise they seemed to garner. (49)

"It must be lovely inside your head, always attributing your good-hearted motives to everybody else." (Henry to Cat, 174)

She recalled the feelings she'd harboured before she even arrived. She'd been infatuated with the idea of Northanger, regardless of what the reality might be....
It was time to let it go. Cat had to start seeing the world as it was, not as she dreamed it. (284) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 13, 2017 |
I really liked this re-imagining and yet I had hoped for more knowing that Ms. McDermid is a crime writer.

This is the third book I've read from the Austen Project and so far the one I've liked the best. I liked the comfort of being similar to the original and I think the characters were spot on. I was glad too that I recognized the setting, I could imagine it both in Austen's time and in McDermid's time

All that being said, I was hoping for a bit more mystery, maybe a bit of twist of some type of crime having been committed to bring in more of McDermid's forte. And after having read three of the Austen Project books I really have to wonder if we are capable of a modern writer who would be gives us the satisfaction we receive when we read Jane Austen's original novels. And if there is such a writer is the modern reader capable of appreciating the wit, style and subtlety that was the greatness of Austen? If Austen wrote the same book in today's society would we love it as much as we do? That's why I gave this book four stars, because it could have been something Austen wrote if she were a writer in today's modern, crazy-social media driven world.

If you want something more modern or were hoping for a really good mystery don't read this book but if you want an enjoyable Austenesqe read give this one a try. ( )
  mmoj | Mar 2, 2017 |
(Originally reviewed at thelibraryladies.com.)

I found this book while wandering around my library one afternoon. I have a usual reading test that I apply to re-tellings of Jane Austen stories which simply involves reading the first chapter. Mostly this is due to the fact that Austen’s signature writing style is so tricky to duplicate and it is often what sinks many re-imaginings. I’ve wasted too many hours where what might have been a good book on its own is ruined for me by the simple fact that I am too distracted by the writing style itself to focus on the story. Well, this one passed this initial test and so I gave it a go!

First off, since style of writing is usually a major factor for me with these types of books, I will give credit to McDermid for what she does with it in this story. The book is helped by the fact that it is set in the modern day so there is no need to replicate the style of speaking and writing that came with the original. Beyond this, McDermid does a good job converting several of the scenes and dialogue from the original directly into the story with very minimal changes that are both believable and, in some cases, quite creative. Perhaps at times some of the slang that is used for the teenagers who are speaking is a bit much, but for the most part, McDermid avoided overdoing it in this area.

I also appreciated the parallels that were drawn between the original and this book with regards to the parody angle. Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” was largely written in response to the over-done, and often poorly written, gothic horror/romances that were popular in the time. Her heroine loves these stories, but throughout the book learns an important lesson with regards to these books’ failures to depict real people and real life. In this, gothic romance is substituted for the “Twilight” series, which is not only funny, but very accurate when it comes to being a wildly popular book/now genre that is much loved by teenage girls. It has also been highly criticized for portraying unrealistic people and unhealthy world views for these same adoring fans. So to use that series/genre in a re-telling like this is very true to the message and structure of the original.

That said, there are some big problems using this set up as well. In the original, Catherine fears the Tilneys are hiding dark secrets having to do with the suspicious death of the mother, perhaps at the father’s hand. In this, Catherine suspects the Tilneys…are vampires. Look, this is just not the same. Murder, especially at the hands of an emotionally abusive spouse, while rare, is an actual thing. So Catherine’s suspicions can be offensive to the family, but ultimately can be forgiven as fanciful foolishness. In this story, Cat’s suspicions of actual vampires are ridiculous. Every time it came up, I immediately lost respect for Cat. And in the end, when she actually puts voice to her suspicions, it made me judge Henry as well for not dumping her on the spot. If a love interest suddenly made it known to me that not only do they actually believe vampires exist, but they suspect me and my family are these monsters (very specific sort of vampires ala “Twilight” nonetheless who can go out and about in the day and eat rare meat to survive), I’d be out of there immediately.

Cat is supposed to be on the verge of adulthood, and these imaginings are worrisome with regards to her actual sanity, not just teenage silliness like the original character.

Further, Henry was downgraded even more as a romantic hero when it came to the reason that Cat is evicted from the family home and his belief in that reason himself, not just the General’s belief. I don’t want to spoil things, but the changed reason was ridiculous, and almost offensive, in many ways. I honestly don’t quite know why this had to be changed at all. The original reason, Catherine’s not having a fortune at her disposal, is still a legitimate stumbling block for the type of snobby, pretentious father that the General is made out to be in both books.

To end on a good note, I very much enjoyed the portrayal of the villains in this story. Bella, Johnny, and the eldest Tilney, Freddie, were all spot on as modern adaptations of the original characters. They were all three highly entertaining and the types of characters you loved to have around just to hate them.

All in all, I was very disappointed with this book. The language was so strong (my usual criticism for this type of story) and many of the characters were perfect. But for some reason the author felt it necessary to adapt portions of the book in ways that severely detracted from the story as a whole. For a book that was so on-the-nose as an adaptation (there were many scenes and conversations that were almost directly lifted from the original), it was shame to have it fail due to unnecessary and weak plot changes. ( )
  thelibraryladies | Feb 4, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Val McDermidprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fox, BeccaCover letteringsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woods, Charles RueCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Joanna Steven, constant reader, constant friend,
who is indirectly responsible for introducing me to the
delights of the Piddle Valley.
First words
It was a source of constant disappointment to Catherine Morland that her life did not more closely resemble her books.
Cat, as she preferred to be known—on the basis that nobody should emerge from their teens with the name their parents had chosen—had been disappointed by her life for as long as she could remember.
Henry gave her a wolfish grin, revealing small, sharp teeth. His eyes looked almost tawny in the afternoon light, like a lion stalking prey.
'Pleased to meet you,' he said, head cocked as if assessing her for the pot.
Satisfied that he wasn't a gay man in disguise, Susie tucked a hand under Cat's arm.
If Cat had not had her own lively interest in her surroundings to preserve her, she might have lost the will to live entirely.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802123015, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:28 -0400)

In this modern retelling of Austen's classic, bookish minister's daughter Cat Morland joins her well-to-do friends in Edinburgh and falls for an up-and-coming lawyer who may harbor unsettling secrets.

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