Picture a ballroom. Elegant ladies with trailing dresses and handsome young men in their finest. Smooth music, sparkling lights. Add some red wine and vases of flowers and the picture is perfect. Almost. It just needs one more thing. Do you know what that is?
Now, I’m not really sure what kind of a mind decides that a Regency era romance novel needs to be spiced up with the undead. And I don’t understand what kind of a person is willing to dishonor Jane Austen by reading such a novel. Shame! Shame on them all.
Oh, who am I kidding? I’m one of those people who heard the title Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and made a face. Ten minutes later I was one the computer, placing a hold at the library. Some concepts are just too weird to pass up. Here, see for yourself:
A horrible and incurable plague has enveloped Europe, causing the dead to crawl from their graves and walk the earth. The five Bennet sisters have devoted their lives to protecting their town from the undead. Feisty and highly trained in the deadly arts, Elizabeth Bennet is their brave leader, leading them into battles to slay unmentionables and bring honor to their name.
But Mr. Darcy, a haughty, rich young man also proficient in the deadly arts, soon enters their town and proves to be an unwelcome interruption. His close friend, an untrained but pleasant man, falls in love with Jane Bennet. Because of this, Elizabeth is forced to see more and more of this odious Mr. Darcy, who looks down on the Bennet family for being poor country people, not even rich enough to hire ninjas for their own protection.
All Elizabeth wants to do is protect her family and rid Europe of zombies, but she soon finds herself distracted. Constantly clashing with both zombies and Mr. Darcy’s social ideals, Miss Bennet must find a way to overcome her foes and conquer her own prejudices.
I know many people were upset by the idea of the novel because they felt it was disrespecting Jane Austen and her work. To those people I answer: Relax. It will never be a classic and it will never outstrip the real novel. Why? Because it’s a parody. An extremely clever parody, but a parody nonetheless.
This means that its use of self-deprecating humor was plentiful. What Grahame-Smith lacks in writing style he makes up for in clever twists and a willingness to poke fun at anything and everything. Take the opening line, for instance:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
Compare this to the first line of the real book:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Grahame-Smith immediately gets ten gazillion points for both having the guts to twist an iconic opening sentence and for possessing a brilliant sense of humor.
The rest of the book is littered with such changes. Because I’m fairly familiar with the original work, I kept catching references and feeling like Captain America. For example:
Why are there militia outside of this small country town? Because of the zombie infestation. Duh. And why did Charlotte really marry Mr. Collins? Because he would be able to give her a proper Christian burial and keep her from rising as one of the undead. Jane stayed the night at the Bingley’s, not because it rained and she got a cold, but because she was attacked by zombies on her way to their house.
In fact, all of the changes in the story made an alarming amount of sense. This guy clearly knows what’s up. The truth is out there.
I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy parts of this story as much as I did. That being said, there were a few glaring issues:
Grahame-Smith’s version of Elizabeth Bennet is a bloodthirsty, unprincipled young lady who is constantly having the urge to kill people in cold blood. That’s a bit of a stretch from the opinionated yet caring Elizabeth in Jane Austen’s book, so it did throw off the gait a bit.
This book also featured what seemed to be an excessive amount of gore. I understand that it’s a zombie book, so of course it will be violent. However, there is a difference between violence (the act) and gore (the in-depth display of the result of the act). One is necessary (explaining that Darcy sliced off a zombie’s head to protect his friend), one is not (spending several sentences describing the way a decapitated zombie head looks). Thankfully for those of us who don’t like gore, these scenes are fairly easy to skip over.
Also, while I’m being squeamish, I might as well mention that one character’s transition from human to zombie is a bit gross. Once again, feel free to skip those if you’re like me and don’t enjoy drinking tea early in the morning while reading about the undead. I’m not much of a zombie person, in case you can’t tell. Of course this is not Grahame-Smith’s fault, I just thought I’d lob that out there for any other people who have similar taste to mine.
Oddly enough, reading this parody actually helped me understand certain parts of Pride and Prejudice that have never made sense to me. The dialogue is a bit plainer and the social boundaries are explained a bit more. The result of this would be that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies actually sheds a lot of light on the classic that it is poking fun at. It’s clear that Grahame-Smith did his research, which was very neat of him.
I feel odd saying this, but I’m actually slightly impressed with this book. I had very low expectations and yes, there were lots of points that felt off, but it was still entertaining and quite clever.
If you’re an Austenite with a good sense of humor or a person who likes zombie romances (which is now a genre, apparently), then you should give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith a try.
I’m very interested in seeing how the movie does. Who here is planning on seeing it? Probably not me, because the only zombie movie I’ve ever liked was I Am Legend (“What you doing out here, Fred?!”), but I’d love to hear how it goes. Do you think you’ll read this book? Leave your thoughts below!
Hannah Heath – bookworm and author