Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project)
by Val McDermid.
This is the latest in the line of Austen adaptations I was eager to try out. This version of Northanger Abbey takes place in the modern day, complete with texting, British slang and Facebook stalking. It’s the story of Cat Morland, a teenage girl with a penchant for paranormal novels and Gothic imaginings. She visits Edinburgh for the first time with some family friends for the Fringe Festival, and quickly falls in with a group of young people who, of course, are not all as they seem. Cue potential romance, social gaffes, and miscommunications of varying degrees of fall-out. The original was definitely the most YA-like of Austen’s books, as far as the age feel, and this one follows suit.
To be fair, the original Northanger Abbey isn’t my favorite of Austen’s work, so my lukewarm response can’t be blamed entirely on McDermid’s adaptation. The characters who were annoying in the original are still annoying in this version, and my exasperation with Cat was also the same in places. I did feel like the modern setting was done well, and I definitely want to visit Edinburgh even more than I already did. So kudos to the Scottish author for that. But the sheer volume of British/Scottish slang and the way that text messages were conveyed were just overwhelmingly off-putting. I know these characters are teenagers, but Cat especially is supposed to be a really smart girl, and her texting style was just painful. It read much more like an older person (ahem, the author) trying to imitate teenage speech than actual, authentic teenage speech. For me it was jarring and took me out of the story.
Overall, if you really liked the original Northanger Abbey, you will probably like this version. But if you were only so-so on the original, probably give this one a pass.