Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid



BLURB: “Seventeen-year-old Catherine ‘Cat’ Morland has led a sheltered existence in rural Dorset, a life entirely bereft of the romance and excitement for which she yearns. So when Cat’s wealthy neighbours, the Allens, ask her to accompany them to the Edinburgh festival, she is sure adventure beckons. Edinburgh initially offers no such thrills: Susie Allen is obsessed by shopping, Andrew Allen by the Fringe. A Highland Dance class, though, brings Cat a new acquaintance: Henry Tilney, a pale, dark-eyed gentleman whose family home, Northanger Abbey, sounds perfectly thrilling. And an introduction to Bella Thorpe, who shares her passion for supernatural novels, provides Cat with a like-minded friend. But with Bella comes her brother John, an obnoxious banker whose vulgar behaviour seems designed to thwart Cat’s growing fondness for Henry. Happily, rescue is at hand. The rigidly formal General Tilney invites her to stay at Northanger with son Henry and daughter Eleanor. Cat’s imagination runs riot: an ancient abbey, crumbling turrets, secret chambers, ghosts…and Henry! What could be more deliciously romantic? But Cat gets far more than she bargained for in this isolated corner of the Scottish borders. The real world outside the pages of a novel proves to be altogether more disturbing than the imagined world within…”

REVIEW: I love reading modern twists on classic novels, and Val McDermid’s 21st century version of Jane Austen’s brilliant ‘Northanger Abbey’ certainly did not disappoint. The original ‘Northanger Abbey’ has often been classified as a work of Gothic fiction, Austen’s only novel in this genre, and McDermid brilliantly translates the suspense, mystery and drama of Victorian Gothic into a modern setting. The blurb pretty much covers the main points of the story, but I would just like to comment on how excellently McDermid transformed the characters from 19th century paragons to modern teenagers. Cat is just as she is in the original text; witty, imaginative and insistent on believing in the kindness and good hearts of others, while the banter between her and Henry reflects passages from the original text, making the reader feel even more attached to the characters. McDermid’s most brilliant achievement, I feel, was her transformation of Bella Thorpe. Bella behaves exactly how one always imagined the modern Isabella would, written as a selfish, vain and overdramatic flirt who cares little for the feelings and needs of others. I thoroughly enjoyed McDermid’s twist on a literary classic, and couldn’t put it down – therefore I would highly recommend it, particularly to fans of Austen’s original.


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