Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again."

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid: Cat Morland is ready for an adventure.  After being sheltered by her minister father for much of her life, Cat is only too happy to accept an invitation to a festival in Edinburgh from her neighbors the Allens. There, she becomes fast friends with Henry and Eleanor Tilney but she soon gets the feeling that the Tilney's have secrets.  Is Cat right about her friends or has her years of reading novels just given her a wild imagination?

I have been meaning to write up the review for this novel for some time but struggled with how I should go about it.  My hopes for this novel at the beginning were very high.  I was open to anything and everything and excited to read it.  However, by the last page, I was disappointed.  

Where do I begin?  Let us start with the positive.  

I loved the setting of Edinburgh and the festival.  Really got a feel for the place through the book and it was a perfect substitution for the social season in Bath.  The descriptions of places and the interiors of houses brought the story's landscape to life.  What I really cherished though was getting to see where the characters ended up.  Seeing where Cat and James' professional choices took them and how they found happiness was a treat.  Also getting the opportunity to see what happened to certain mean spirited individuals was a true gift.  I loved getting to know The Allens and Ellie Tilney.  They were my favorite bits of the entire story.

I liked that the cover design kept the silhouette theme like the one that was used for Joanna Trollope's Sense and Sensibility.  I hope the cover for the next book in the Austen Project uses the same theme so that all the books are connected in appearance. 

The overall tone of the book was fun and light, which was a nice contrast with some of the heaviness I experienced while reading the retelling of Sense and Sensibility. 
Now onto the second part of this review. The things that bothered me about this book and ultimately hindered my enjoyment of it were things happened continuously throughout the story.  Firstly, the language was sometimes bothersome.  Cat's manner of speaking changed depending on who she talked to.   I compared how she spoke to Bella and to Ellie and she sounded different with each person.  Maybe it was intentional, but I don't think Cat is the type of girl to tamp down her personality around one trusted friend and not around another.  And while I do understand that Val McDermid wanted to give us a 21st century Isabella Thorpe, the cliches of how idiotic self-absorbed girls act and speak got so incredibly intense that it became painful to read. 

While I did love Cat's suspicions about the Tilney family, I just wish there had been more build up to it that made it seem like it could have been plausible.  In the Austen novel, while ridiculous to believe so and influenced by Gothic novel reading, I got the sense that General Tilney was a cruel man that could have been capable of anything really.  With this retelling...I didn't get the feeling that there was even a possibility of anything being strange about the Tilney family.  In the end, the big reveal was disappointing and awkward. 

I was so ready to love this novel and enjoy seeing Val McDermid step out of her psychological  crime thriller comfort zone but sadly, it wasn't that great of a reading experience.

Title quote from:
Austen, J. (2006). Northanger Abbey.  New York, NY: Knopf Publishing Group.

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