Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid sucks | Book Review

I could not tell you the plot of Northanger Abbey. It is fresh in my memory, but god knows what the climax of the story was. What I thought was the plot got shot in the head at the beginning of the last third and then they treated the wound by stuffing it with an abrupt ending and shit ‘twist.’

Okay, I’ll try to summarize what happens.

Cat Morland, a 17-year-old homeschool girl who has lived in the UK country side her whole life, is invited to Edinburgh by her neighbours, the Allens, to enjoy a month-long festival.

While in Edinburgh, Cat meets Bella Thrope, a London city girl, and her family. Bella instantly claims Cat as her best friend and the two get along well due to their shared interest in book genres.

There is a (what I think is) weekly ball with traditional folk dancing, so Mrs. Allen sends Cat to a lesson so she can make a proper debut. At this dance lesson, Cat meets Henry Tilney, a handsome blonde boy who she instantly falls in love with.

A majority of the plot that follows is a ridiculous back and forth of misunderstandings. Johnny Thorpe, Bella’s brother, takes a fancy to Cat but is a huge asshole and doesn’t understand when no means no. Most of the first two thirds are Cat telling Johnny she doesn’t want to hang out with him and him forcing her anyway because Cat’s too polite to say no.

Subsequently, because of these actions, Cat is afraid she has insulted Henry. A lot of her introspection is concerned about what he thinks of her.

Meanwhile, during this mess, Cat eventually meets Ellie Tinley, Henry’s sister, and the two become friends. About mid-way through the book the Tinley’s invite Cat to their home, Northanger Abbey, where the rest of the book takes place.

The tension(?) of this invite is Cat’s farfetched belief that the Tinley’s are vampires. By going to their home, she intends to investigate her suspicions. These suspicions, however, are based solely on circumstantial evidence (they don’t go outside when it’s sunny, they drink tomatoes juice and Caesars, mirrors are uncommon in their home).

Honestly, the book’s a mess plot-wise. I don’t want to waste a lot of time of this one, because it wasted too much of mine.

The Good

I was okay with the MC Cat. She’s definitely a Mary Sue, because apparently she’s super pretty, all sorts of guys are fawning over her, she’s a big reader, she loves vampires and twilight, and she’s naïve and ignorant to city life. BUT, I liked her attitude. She was nice, polite, and eventually stood up for herself.

The story was okay. I kept reading because I couldn’t imagine the ending. I was intrigued.

The writing was good. Descriptive when it needed to be, properly introspective. A little bit of mystery.

The Bad

Basically everything else. Almost all the characters were unlikable. Cat was okay, along with her parents and the Allens. That was it. Bella – complete basic bitch. Johnny – total ‘bro’ asshole. Henry – spoke like a 14-year-old from r/iamverysmart. General Tinley, father of Henry and Ellie – all around asshole. Just so many unlikeable people. Thank god Bella get’s her comeuppance at the end.

The use of ‘millennial speak’ is absolutely abhorrent. It was published in 2014 but it’s using words like ‘Facebooked’ and ‘amazeballs’ (so outdated).

Here’s a direct line from a character’s text:

Soz we fell out, gf. Its cos I heart u so much. 4give, yeah? On my knees 2 u, come and hv brunch chez Thorpe. Need 2 talk to u, big news coming down. Bx0x.”


The story, as seen in my attempted summary, is all over the map. Worst yet, it ruins itself and ends with the most obvious romance. Allow me to elaborate.

The plot greatly insists that the Tinley’s are vampires. Honestly, if they had been I would’ve praised the book. Instead, Cat discovers it’s just her wild imagination and gets scolded by Henry, becomes melodramatic, blah blah blah shitty teen heartbreak. After the bubble bursts, the plot does a huge nosedive. I swear the author’s deadline was pushed up by two months so she wrote out the shitty ending in one day.

Essentially, in the middle of the night, Cat gets kicked out of the house by General Tinley and sent home. No explanation. Two days later Henry turns up to apologize for his father’s behaviour. Turns out, the General thought she was a lesbian and having a relationship with Ellie, so Cat got kicked out. Johnny Thorpe somehow convinced him of his.

Cat clears up the misunderstanding, Henry confesses his love – something so predictable it’s not worth it’s weight in ink or paper – and the two get together.

Here’s an insult to an already insulting plot – the last chapter is a ‘where are they now’ wrap up. SMFH.

The plot is my biggest issue because, without that vampire shit, it’s just a slice of life story. Not even coming of age, just Cat’s little adventures during a one month period. Here’s the thing: SLICE OF LIFE DOESN’T WORK IN A NOVEL FORMAT.

This isn’t fucking Archie Comics. This isn’t Lucky Star. THIS IS A NOVEL WITH SHITTY CHARACTERS AND A SHITTY PLOT.

Final thoughts

Though it pains me to say this, Northanger Abbey is better than No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale. The latter has a shitty character, but an intriguing plot. The former has shitty plot, but decent characters. The biggest difference, however, is that I really didn’t want to keep reading No One Else Can Have You, but Northanger Abbey had me curious.

Only because I was so baffled at how the book would end, Northanger Abbey is better than NOECHY.

Final Recommendation



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s