You don’t exactly associate bestselling crime writer Val McDermid with the romantic fiction of Jane Austen. Yet, McDermid’s take on Northanger Abbey is the second book in the ambitious Jane Austen Project.
The project pairs six contemporary authors with six complete works by Austen — Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. It gives today’s authors a chance to rework those classics and put their own spin on those very proper works. Joanna Trollope (2013’s Balancing Act) reimagined Sense & Sensibility last fall.
Northanger Abbey and McDermid are actually a perfect pairing. It’s a coming-of-age novel about Cat Morland, a sheltered 17-year-old vicar’s daughter who loves books (vampire fiction) and her smartphone, natch. When she visits a family friend in Edinburgh, Cat’s imagination goes into overdrive, thanks to the Gothic abbey of the title and its charming and handsome inhabitant, Henry Tilney, who’s just a little too perfect. Of course, in this retelling, Cat can get all her information about Henry by using Google.
Bestselling American author Curtis Sittenfeld (2013’s Sisterland) tackles Pride & Prejudice this fall.
— Celeste Williams
by Val McDermid
Grove Press, $26