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A Spoopy Love Affair With Books

Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.

Currently reading

Wytches Volume 1
Scott Snyder, Jock
Progress: 45 %
Bad Moon Rising
Jonathan Maberry
Progress: 160/534 pages
The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection Vol. 1
Dave Lanphear, Derek Freidolfs, Tonci Zonjic, Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic, Clay Mann, Dean White, David Aja, Khari Evans, Roy Allan Martinez, Victor Olazaba, Francisco Paronzini, June Chung, Nick Dragotta, Mitch Breitweiser, Javier Rodriguez, Stefano Gaudiano, Dan Brereton, M

Review: Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project) by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey - Val McDermid

I would have liked to have re-familiarized myself with the source material before I read this book; one of the pleasures of adaptations is the adaptation itself, seeing all the clever ways the author changed and readjusted the situations. I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because I was so familiar with the original novel. So that was a disadvantage coming into it. And it was a fun read! What I did remember seemed to be a good fit, the book seemed to be very faithful, tweaked to fit into the modern world, but with a sincere fondness for the material.


I debated the rating I was going to give for some time. Because, while the premise itself would make an excellent novel on its own, free of adaptation, the execution isn't flawless. Catherine "Cat" Morland is obsessed, only this time, it's with the supernatural romance fiction so popular in YA, instead of the Gothic literature of Ann Radcliffe. Perfect, right? Well, sort of. Because the sensibilities are completely different, and McDermind doesn't seem to have adjusted for this. She doesn't seem to know much about the supernatural YA craze outside of Twilight, which itself is now an old, outdated reference; not even Vampire Academy or Vampire Diaries, Twilight's contemporaries, are mentioned or evoked. And she seems to believe that the thrills that girls get out of supernatural romances are scares instead of hints of the sexual. Naturally, she had to make a series up for Cat to become obsessed with, but it wasn't a clever parody like anything I know or have read; it seemed out of touch.


And it's when they get to Northanger Abbey itself that I feel the adaptation flails for a time; Catherine might have been upset in the original novel that it wasn't quite as spooky as she had been imagining, but Cat should have known that YA is modernized. She does try to bring up the Cullens' home (yes, Twilight again), as Cat trying to justify how it can still be spooky and haunted, but it felt forced, one line in there to explain away a problem the book suffers here. Making a joke out of it in advance doesn't excuse the fact that the convenient lack of wi-fi and phone service at the estate seems like a Scooby Doo-type contrivance. Throwing in comments about video game systems and Sex and the City DVDs does not necessarily a modern adaptation make. It just felt forced.


The ending twist she throws in? I liked that. Now there, I thought as I read it, was a clever way of bringing modern thoughts and lifestyles to the material! And it felt natural, unlike most of the other changes. A spurned potential boyfriend, these days, would tell anyone that she was a lesbian to justify his scorn. And it made me happy to see that she leaves it ambiguous with Ellie. The author, I found out later, is a lesbian, and so for her, it must have felt more familiar a change. But the rest of the novel sort of teetered on wobbly legs, and that's a shame, because the premise was strong, strong, strong. Strong enough to justify its existence, at the very least. And to make it a fun read, if not exactly as fun, or groundbreaking, as I had hoped for.