Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

It was a source of constant disappointment to Catherine Morland that her life did not more closely resemble her books.

Obviously a reimaging of Jane Austen and obviously intentional. It is similar in tone to Pride and Prejudice. It's amazing how often Austen is rewritten in the 21st century. One wonders if it is either because her work is hard for the modern mind to relate to and needs a bit of dumbing down, or because people can't get enough of her. I suspect a little of the former and a lot of the later.

This opening line manages to hook for some reason, though the credit is to Austen and not McDermid, who acknowledges the fact. It sums up Austen's Northanger Abbey in many ways. But the line is also self-evident. Most readers want their lives to be like how they are in the novels they read, that is one reason why they read and in some cases obsess over them. The Harry Potter series, Twilight Saga and The Catcher in the Rye come to mind. (Sorry for putting Twilight and The Catcher in the Rye together in the same sentence, but they do share a common publisher in Little Brown. Shame on you Little Brown.)

First thing said:

"And what kind of future is she going to have?"

Good thing there's no copyright on titles, for it's the title together with the byline hook that will make people seek this title out. Even though, Austen's Northanger Abbey is not considered her greatest work, it is her one novel that I enjoyed the most and will probably reread some day. Anyone who knows anything about that novel, will be tempted by this and pray it is similar in some way.

Just for point of reference, the opening line from Austen's work:

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Jane Austen was apt at writing opening lines and has several that are memorable.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Theodore Moracht

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