by Val McDermid
Review by Gayle Surrette
Grove Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780802123015
Date: 15 April 2014 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
I'm a huge fan of the works of Jane Austen, having read each of the novels multiple times. I also enjoy reading the follow-on novels, plot variations, and retellings. Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey is a retelling updated to modern times, and it's excellent.
Of course when updating a classic for modern times, an author has to make choices to reflect the current society and mores. In this version, the rich neighbors, the Allens, take Catherine Morland to the Fringe Festival. And Catherine's obsession with fiction, especially fantasy, remains, but she's convinced that vampires and many of the creatures of her favorite reading material are real. The book that she's obsessed with is a modern work -- however, I could not find the title via Google, so I'd guess that, unlike the book from the original novel that was a contemporary one that Austen was undoubtedly familiar with, this one doesn't actually exist.
The basic plot of the story remains the same. Catherine Morland is on an adventure. Her neighbors have invited her to accompany them to travel with them. At the festival, she meets the Thorpes and the Tilneys and is invited to stay at Northanger Abbey. In keeping with the original novel, the story moves along as Catherine lives her life in expectation that it will eventually be as exciting, amazing, and maybe as dangerous as one of her novels. If it isn't she'll find ways to fit the reality to her fantasy.
It all plays out as marvelous commentary on today's society as the original must have struck home with readers of Austen's day. A good solid story, whether you've read Austen or not, but it's an even richer experience if you're familiar with the original work, for the choices are sometimes unexpected yet perfectly fitted for a young woman of today.