Of all the Jane Austen books I’ve read, somehow I had never read this one. As part of the Austen Project, I read Val McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey, which was updated from the original. The original was published in 1817, and this is quite different with McDermid’s updates. Like Austen’s other works, it’s kind of a romance, though McDermid is known more of a mystery writer. Northanger Abbey is one of the book’s many settings, and is supposed to be somewhat Gothic. In this story, however, it doesn’t show up until the very end of the book, and doesn’t seem to be as interesting as it’s supposed to be.
Cat Morland is a 17 year old girl, ready to be on her own. She is a minister’s daughter, one of five children (though in Austen’s original, Catherine is one of two children), who was homeschooled, and didn’t grow up with a whole lot. So she’s super excited when a family friend invites her to stay with them over the summer in Bath The Allens are neighbors, and close friends of the family. They take Cat along with them to the Fringe Festival, staying with them at their estate. This is nothing like the life she is used to, though she thinks she could get used to it. It is a nice break from the small, crowded house she shares with her rather large family.
It’s here that she meets new friends, Bella, Eleanor, and most importantly Eleanor’s older brother Henry. With Eleanor, her brother, and Eleanor’s father, they take a trip up north, and it’s there that the visit Northanger Abbey. One thing about Cat, as a teenage girl, she is obsessed with vampire novels. Even before their trip togerher, she stays with Eleanor at her home, and becomes obsessed with exploring Eleanor’s family stately estate – snooping around in closets, down dark hallways. She is convinced there is something dark and possibly sinister hidden in the estate. Northanger Abbey is even more intriguing, it’s quite a bit bigger, offering more rooms to explore.
I really liked the story overall, and the old English and Scottish estates that were described throughout the book. As a 17 year old, who was obsessed with Facebook and texting, and all vampire novels, Cat was a little annoying, though I don’t know how she compared with the original character. I also thought that it was interesting that Val McDermid chose this book as part of the Austen Project, with such a young main character. I kind of felt that she was trying too hard to modernize the story. As part of the Austen Project, I have to say this wasn’t my favorite adaptation of Austen’s work, but it was still a fun read. And though I’ve never been an Austen fan, I’d really like to read the original Northanger Abbey.