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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

Recently I wrote the following statement while reviewing a book I have often suspected any novel can only be enhanced by the addition of rampaging hordes of undead. The publisher Quirk Books, originators of the mash-up novel, were obviously listening and sent me some books that would allow me to test that theory. Over the next few days I’ll be posting reviews of a few of them.

The first novel I read is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith. Before I begin, I have an admission to make, I have to be honest and admit that I have never read any of Jane Austen’s work.

After discussing the book at length with my wife, who has read Austen, I am assured that the majority of the plot remains the same as the original text. The five Bennet sisters are all of marriageable age and their mother is keen to ensure that they all marry well into wealthy, well to-do families. The second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, is headstrong and independent. She refuses to bow to convention and very much knows her own mind. Enter a darkly brooding Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. Initially he appears prideful and standoffish but as the novel develops Darcy and Elizabeth realise their feelings for one another. The additional plots strands regarding Elizabeth’s other sisters and her friend Charlotte Lucas also remain largely intact.

Lots of stiff upper lips and starched collars are still in evidence here but tempering that with horror works well. In typically British fashion most characters consider the zombie menace little more than an inconvenience. This is where the Regency setting really works. It’s clear that Grahame-Smith has made a supreme effort to blend his text with Austen’s original. The best example of this is in the terms used to describe the undead. Zombie is considered a decidedly uncouth phrase when describing the unfortunate deceased so many different names are used. My personal favourite being ‘manky dreadful‘.

The addition of action scenes don’t feel forced. They are peppered throughout the novel at sensible points. The Bennet sisters have been trained in the deadly arts of the warrior, and are as comfortable dispatching Satan’s servants as being demure and lady like. The darkly comic descriptions of ladies attacking zombies with katanas and flintlock pistols while in full evening dress will certainly stay with me.

My main concern, before reading the book, was always that I would get bogged down in flowery, difficult to read language and be ultimately bored by the experience. I’m glad to say that this was not the case. The witticisms and verbal sparring between the characters, seen by many as an Austen hallmark, are still present but I was able to follow these vocal gymnastics without much difficulty.

So does the inclusion of zombies enhance this particular novel? In my opinion the answer is a firm yes. The motivations of characters like Darcy and Elizabeth are only strengthened by having an additional, and in this case undead, burden to bear. I felt that the amendments made by Grahame-Smith have been handled in as a respectful manner as is possible.

I have heard talk of a movie version of this novel in the offing. I hope this happens as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fun re-invention of an extremely popular story and would be great to see on the big screen.

 

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