Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Modern Adaptation of Northanger Abbey
SETTING: Dorset, England and Edinburgh and Borders in Scotland
WHY I WANTED TO READ THIS NOVEL:
- It’s the Austen Project!: 6 best-selling contemporary authors are tackling and updating the 6 major works of Jane Austen! And I haven’t read any of them yet!
- NA Won: In the vote I held at the beginning of the month, Northanger Abbey was the most voted for option, over Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope. But aside from that, Northanger Abbey inspired novels are definitely scarce and I’m always wanting to read more!
WHAT I LOVED:
- Plausible Recreation: All the characters were updated to our modern world and easily recognized. Cat is a seventeen-year-old homeschooled student who has never left her home county, which appropriately made her inexperienced, innocent, and trusting. Bella was the insincere friend who was wild for vampire novels and male attention, John Thorpe was obsessed about his car and often talked nonsense, and the Tilney family was reserved and mysterious. While these updates weren’t the most creative or inventive, they were believable and translated well.
- Culture Fest on the Fringe: The Allens invite Cat to come spend a month with them in Ediburgh while they attend the Festival and sample a variety of performances and events. What a magnificent treat for Cat, I would gladly like to be in shoes! One woman shows, viewings, talks, and author signings – I enjoyed hearing about all the events they attended and would have loved even more time spent describing them.
- Take Me to England: Quaint country villages, a bustling historic city alive with entertainments and society, and charming Scottish squares near Gothic abbeys– it was lovely to be surrounded by sites, sounds, and descriptions of all these intriguing and scenic locales. In addition, I love learning some new British expressions such as “chuffed,” “skint,” “clever clogs.” It was great to be back in the UK!
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Formulaic: This story felt like an exact modern-day mirroring of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Every part of the story was there – the characters, the plot elements, the conflicts – all translated to our world…even when it sometimes felt forced. When I read modern-day adaptations of Jane Austen novels, I often find myself praising the author’s work as clever and original. I love looking for their creative parallels, subtle nods, and unique twists. I could not do that with this story. It wasn’t clever at all…it was a carbon copy of Jane Austen’s work and for what I could tell didn’t include any of the author’s own sparkle or imagination.
- Disappointing Developments: Since Cat loves her some vampire stories, she of course assumes that the Tilneys might be vampires (you know, because they have pale complexions, didn’t eat a lot that one time, and opted to not go for a walk on a very hot and sunny day.) I know this was a very plausible translation for Cat in our modern world especially with the vampire craze that was popular a few years ago, but I felt it lacked conviction. Especially since Cat wavered back and forth on it herself. I also thought the whole General-Tilney-interested-in-Cat-because-she-will-be-rich was dated and slightly implausible. And it was weird how the author made such a point of establishing that belief and then abandoned it in the end for something else.
Readers who don’t consume a healthy diet of Austenesque literature may find this Ms. McDermid’s recreation to be impressive and admirable. But I’m afraid I didn’t. I’ve seen other Austenesque authors do it better (Meryton Press, Indie Jane Press – I’m looking at you.) I recommend this story to readers who would love to see a modern-day retelling of Northanger Abbey that very closely resembles Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.