Allison's Book Bag

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Posted on: May 28, 2011

I am ashamed to admit that I first became intrigued with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith because of its phenomenal success on the best seller lists. Call it an aversion to adolescent days when I craved to know the hottest songs, stars, and styles. Whatever the reason, as an adult, I normally avoid trends. Yet when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hit the radar, I felt curious about that whole mash-up combination. Now being immersed in the trilogy, I feel proud and hip to be caught reading a book about zombies.

In your typical horror movie, character development is often so mind-numbing that it’s tempting to flash-forward to the next kill. That’s probably why I don’t care for the majority of them. How then could a zombie-entrenched book appeal to me? Well, given that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies utilized the original classic Jane Austen text, I knew it would not be just another mindless horror story. Rather, it would be about the lives of the landed gentry, in particular the Bennets and their five daughters. It would focus specifically on Elizabeth Bennet, who is distracted by the arrival of the arrogant and haughty Mr. Darcy. Essentially, it would be a love story.

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the...

Image via Wikipedia

Or would it? If Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was intended to turn modern readers on to the classics, a brain-gorging fest might liven up an ancient text. When my husband and I talked about the concept, he experimented by substituting the word zombie for zombie in his current read. The results were hysterical, but also revealed why Pride and Prejudice and Zombies captivated me. Grahame-Smith was clever about where and how he integrated the zombie world. He did not simply replace random nouns with the word zombie. He wrote instead about how “a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains” and how “attacks by the unmentionables had grown alarmingly frequent”. He described their appearance and their battles: “suits so filthy that one would assume they were assembled from little more than dirt and dried blood” and “devils grazing on sun-hardened corpses.” He also turned the landed gentry, including women, into zombie hunters who carry daggers, muskets, swords, and rifles. Gee, there is even a zombie poem.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies received some criticism for sticking too closely to the original. In general, I don’t know that a book or a movie can ever be too faithful to its source. I hate movies that depart so far from its original that I am left wondering if the producers even read the book. I have also felt less than happy about modern rewrites of fairy tales and other classics. I unfailingly prefer the original, period. Yet I understand the criticism. When I read a fractured tale, I expect it to depart extensively from the original. Otherwise, why read the new version? And, to be honest, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does read at times like a book written centuries ago. Yet only a few chapters in, I stopped caring about the whole mash-up controversy. The book is that good.

When I review books, my policy is to note both the good and the bad. The further I progressed in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the more I wondered how could I review a text that is essentially Austen? Scholars might feel few qualms about critiquing Jane Austen. To me, she is an untouchable literary genius. It also didn’t help that eventually the zombie world and landed gentry world blurred. Yes, I admit it: Except for obvious examples, such as when zombies were being referred to, I stopped knowing which sentences belong to Austen and which belonged to Grahame-Smith. While that probably reflects poorly on how little I remember Austen, it does speak volumes for how elegantly Grahame-Smith integrated the two worlds.

Alas, all is not perfect. While the book’s title and cover of a ghoulish zombified lady prepared me for gore, neither prepared me for the frequent references to vomit, the ninjas, or the overly dark tone. At times, Elizabeth is so cold and merciless that I dislike her in this version. For example, after Mr. Darcy insults her, she puts her hand on her dagger with intention to slit his throat. Worse, when goaded into a battle with ninjas, she kills them without remorse and then proceeds to eat the heart of one of them. Perhaps it is just one of my quirks, but I prefer my beloved characters to stay nice people. The book itself becomes too violent at times for my taste. Did one character need to throw himself into a vat of boiling perfume?

Yet I am hooked, perhaps in the very way the Grahame-Smith intended. Being nearly finished with the trilogy, I look forward to having time to read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I might even try out Abraham Lincoln and the Vampire Hunters. Do not fear, Austen fans! I still plan to keep my beloved originals and to one day reread them too. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies not only entertained me, but also renewed my appreciation of the original.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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