Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Riveting Reads: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women love Jane Austen. Even I—who would rather be watching football more often than cozying up on the couch with the latest Sandra Bullock DVD—love Jane Austen. I love it all; the gooey, sappy, so-sweet-you-could-die, eloquent, British prose is like a Valentine just for me. Any woman who has fantasized about “the one” as being a wealthy man, who could have anyone, but picks you for your wit and spitfire nature, can relate to Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice.
But who knew it could be better?
Throw in a little zombie action, a dash of ninjas, and some kick-butt sword fighting, and what do you get? The marriage of Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. (Bet Austen never thought she’d find matrimony like this!) With his bizarre and, let’s be honest, just plain fun interpretation of Austen’s novel, Grahame-Smith tweaks an already pristine classic into three hundred plus pages of laughs.
Grahame-Smith rebirths the famous first lines of the Pride and Prejudice into a telling opening. It says, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” And so the hilarity commences.
Elizabeth Bennet lives in a small British village outside of Meryton. Life is quiet, acquaintances few and far between, and scarcer as the epidemic inflicting the area—zombism or “the strange plague”—brings the dead to life and sets them hunting for scrumptious brain matter. The Bennet sisters are not the unprepared knitting and piano-playing types as Austen created. No, in Grahame-Smith’s version, the sisters had been trained in Martial Arts and wield weapons beneath their petticoats like Asian warriors. Grahame-Smith transforms Elizabeth Bennet into a heroine of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer persuasion. The strong female character we knew and loved is now a modest, zombie-annihilating vixen.
Although, I did laugh for nearly the first twenty pages without pause, I should warn you—as my sister warned when she loaned it to me—that the novelty tends to wear out sooner than later. Truth be told, it did. About the time that Mr. Darcy outlines the parameters of an accomplished woman as having “a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, [as well as being] well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the modern tactics and weaponry of Europe”, I thought the novelty had run dry. Nevertheless, it was worth reading.
Now, I realize there is a reader out there who is scoffing at the very idea of zombies in a Jane Austen novel, and is saying, “how dare someone pollute the words of a classic writer?” Yet, Grahame-Smith never claims to be a match for Austen’s intellect or talent. In fact, he only took one literature class. Truthfully, I hope he starts a trend. I, for one, would like to see A Farewell to Arms and Werewolves or Ulysses and Vampires. Besides, if you didn’t think Mr. Darcy could get any hotter, wait until he decorously blows the head off a zombie with a musket.
Kudos, Grahame-Smith. Write us another.

(published first in The Foothill Breeze in Oct. 2009)


  1. I loved it as a quick - funny read. I think the novelty did wear off a little - so I won't read the Quirk Classic that is Sense and Sensibility and....sea monsters I think (?) but I really really did enjoy this novel. It is nice to read something different for a change of pace.

  2. I have been wanting to read this since it came out... unfortunately we have a very sad selection at our library... My 'to read' list is huge and not getting any smaller.

  3. I saw it at the library yesterday and decided not to get it. Now, I guess I'll have to go back. I could use a laugh.



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