Originally published in 1798, Jane Austen hit the market with her very first novel entitled Northanger Abbey. Now, in 2014, Val McDermid offers her dramatic retelling of this novel and updates it to modern times.
The original novel was not a huge hit in its day but offered the world a glimpse of a literary force in young Jane Austen. The star of her tale was Catherine Morland, a young woman dealing with unrequited romance, clash of classes, and the value of friendship.
McDermid's retelling is actually part of something being called The Austen Project. We have seen Joanne Trollope's take on Sense and Sensibility, while up next will be an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld. Northanger Abbey features the tale of Cat Morland, a homeschooled minister's daughter who is seeking to grow up quick and see more of the world.
She gets her opportunity when some wealthy and worldly friends of the family, the Allens, agree to take Cat with them to attend the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. While there, Cat will hobnob with various artists as well as jet-setting young people. She immediately is attracted to the Thorpe family and is quickly befriended by Bella Thorpe.
As the novel goes through the standard twists and turns that you would expect from a story involving young people from completely different social and economic groups, we are hit with a romance plotline. It is then that we are introduced to the family that inhabits Northanger Abbey—the Tilneys. Henry Tilney is an up-and-coming young lawyer and immediately becomes Cat’s object of desire.
However, this is Jane Austen as told by thriller master Val McDermid. What this means for readers is that complexities, mystery, and hidden secrets will soon come into play and take what could have been a standard young adult novel and turn it into something deeper. A nice attempt at updating a near classic, but still far from the usual Val McDermid crime thrillers we have grown to love.