Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

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

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton – and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she is soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilised sparring between the two young lovers – and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.

If – when I was eleven – you had asked me to name my favourite book, the answer would undoubtedly have been Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Lizzy Bennett was just so intelligent and funny and confident, and I wanted to be her. I wasn’t as keen on Mr Darcy, because quite frankly if someone had spoken about my family as if they were defective representatives of our species then that person wouldn’t have been given a second chance. Plus, in my eyes, Mr Darcy was essentially a moody boy, and I was convinced that moody boys were overrated.

However, as much as I loved Pride and Prejudice (and I really did love it) there were a few things I didn’t understand in regards to the plot. Such as why the Regiment was posted in the middle of the countryside, leaving the officers with nothing much to do except flirt with local girls and attend balls. Also, I could never think well of Mr Bingley for dumping Jane simply because of Mr Darcy’s interference. Could a man really be so greatly influenced by his friend that he willingly abandoned the woman he loved? Furthermore, I was left deeply confused and disappointed by Charlotte’s decision to marry the odious Mr Collins. These points were baffling to my pre-teen brain and that bafflement has only slightly lessened in the intervening years.

The mash-up novel I am reviewing today addresses these issues and provides an interesting explanation for them: zombies! That’s right, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (created by American writer, Seth Grahame-Smith) can account for the militia being in the countryside in great numbers: they are there to battle the zombie threat! Mr Bingley doesn’t abandon Jane because he believes her uninterested in becoming his wife, he leaves her because he suspects (after “the bad cold incident”) that she has been infected with the zombie plague. And Charlotte doesn’t marry Mr Collins simply because she has given up on true love and thinks she won’t get any other marriage proposals, no, she’s been bitten by a zombie and only has a few months left to live, so she chooses to turn into an “unmentionable” away from her friends and family! You see, it all makes sense when you add in some zombie action.

It’s not all horror and mayhem though. There are some rather funny moments woven throughout the text. Like this one:

As they made for the house, Elizabeth and Darcy happened upon a herd of unmentionables, no more than a dozen in number, which had quartered itself in a garden not ten yards from the road. The creatures were crawling on their hands and knees, biting into the ripe heads of cauliflower, which they had mistaken for stray brains.

Elizabeth and her sisters are rather different in an England threatened by zombies. The girls have been trained in the arts of the samurai and they carry swords with which they despatch any zombie unlucky enough to cross their path, and strangely, the addition of these exemplary fighting skills doesn’t feel particularly unbelievable – after all, the Bennet sisters do seem to have a fair amount of spare time on their hands in which they could practise martial arts if they so desired. If I’m perfectly honest, the girls depicted as ruthless killing machines seems to fit well with their various personalities. Girl Power? And then some.

Zombies aren’t the only new addition to the world of Pride and Prejudice. There is also a fair sprinkling of ninjas in the text – Lady Catherine employs many of the ninjas – although I didn’t find the ninjas quite as interesting as the zombies, because naturally they weren’t as menacing as the zombies.

Parody novels that involve much-loved classics of English literature are obviously not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. However, if I could travel back in time and present a copy of this book to Jane Austen, I’d wager that it would make her laugh. Or at the very least smirk. For heaven’s sake, Elizabeth carries a Katana sword and very nearly beheads Mr Darcy! If that wouldn’t be worth a smirk in Regency England I don’t know what would be.

The only real negative I have to mention in relation to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that I rather wished there were more zombie scenes. The working class, more peripheral characters tend to be the ones killed and eaten by the zombies, and it might have been refreshing if one of the main characters had been attacked and eaten. Yes, Charlotte is bitten but we don’t see it occur. Why not have made Jane into a zombie, for instance? Zombieism would certainly have given her character a bit more oomph. Or have a zombie eat Mrs Bennet? Or Mary.

The other negative that has just occurred to me is the prevalence of chipmunks and skunks running through the English woods. Zombies I can accept, but chipmunks, never. Though perhaps these North American animals running through an English wood are supposed to symbolise the American influence running through this text?

To end this rather silly review of a gloriously silly book, I would like to discuss the fate of Wickham, who in my humble opinion does not receive a bad enough comeuppance when left to Austen. Here he receives the harshest possible treatment at the (super-violent) hands of martial-arts-expert Darcy. True, violence is not generally thought to be the answer to one’s problems in life, but it certainly is in the world of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

To read more about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, click here.

Quirk Books, ISBN-13: 978-1594743344, 320 pages.

Lisa has just released a gripping teen novel, SNAKE BEACH, which is available in e-book form here and here.

20 comments on “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

  1. Anne Brooke
    October 6, 2011

    Oh, it sounds fabulous, and is so obviously what really happened. I must read this! :)

    Anne
    xxx

  2. John
    October 6, 2011

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you enjoy reading a book it makes for a better review. I think I’ll stick with my old version without zombies, but what a great review! Thanks, John.

  3. Hilary
    October 6, 2011

    We-ell … I nailed my colours to the mast during our last Hatchet Job week, and much as I loved your review Lisa, I still don’t think this is one for me. I’m with John here – I’ll savour the review and stick with the original.

    I’d have a major gripe with the use of the word ‘unmentionables’, as in my lexicon that means undergarments. I think the crunching of mental gears throughout might make for a bumpy ride for me. I’ll never look at a liberty bodice in the same light again.

    On the other hand, the explanation for Charlotte Collins’s behaviour does have some merit, I agree!

    Finally, thank you, Lisa, for your description of Darcy as a moody boy – you have put in two words everything I have struggled to express about him since I too was a teenager. All those wasted years trying to explain him :D

  4. Moira
    October 6, 2011

    Oh my. I saw a copy of this on the second-hand book stall at the local doctors’ surgery the other week. Now I wish I’d put my money in the pot and picked it up … Mind you, something tells me it might NOT be as entertaining as the review …

  5. Lisa
    October 6, 2011

    Ah, you’ll never know now, Moira. Well, you might if you go back and buy it…(hint hint) Actually I was given this for a birthday present. I probably wouldn’t have bought it myself, just because of the furore surrounding the book’s release (Do you remember the patronising email that a publicist for P&P&Z sent to book bloggers?) http://flavorwire.com/17026/how-to-alienate-bloggers-and-boost-book-sales) Put me right off.

    Hilary! I was wondering if anyone would bring up the issue of “unmentionables” and I agree that it does take a bit of a mental leap but once you’re there it does seem fitting, as there is an acute embarrassment that goes along with the loathing of the zombies – they’re just so loud in their groaning, so indecent in their states of undress, and so very hungry for brains. They are quite unseemly. They are also known as “the sorry stricken,” “the undead” and just “zombies” but I felt I must, er, mention unmentionables.

    John, thank you. I did so enjoy the book and indeed writing this review!

    And Anne, exactly! Definitely what REALLY happened . . . ;-) I think you would enjoy this book. The sheer jazzy wrongness of the thing makes it even more powerful.

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

  6. Chris Harding
    October 6, 2011

    Oh dear! I’m with John and Hilary on this (including reference to unmentionables). I know one shouldn’t pre-judge, and it’s good to broaden one’s horizons, but I’m sticking with the original as well. However, it was a most entertaining review, which I thoroughly enjoyed,

  7. Laura T
    October 6, 2011

    I haven’t read this, but I have read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by the same authors :) My overall impression of the other book was that it was very funny in places, but would have worked better as a short story – reading a 300+ page joke dragged after a while. However, this, being the original joke, might well be better, and I remember the extract from it at the end of S & S and SM making me laugh out loud, as did the spoof ‘reading group guide’ that was included in S & S.

    Now here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: am I the only one who finds Charlotte’s marriage to Mr Collins perfectly understandable even when she’s not a zombie??

  8. Chris Harding
    October 6, 2011

    No Laura, you’re not the only one. It’s easy to criticise Charlotte for marrying a man she doesn’t love, but she’s a pragmatist. She’s approaching 30, not pretty, has no fortune, and her chances of a good marriage are negligible to non-existent – until Mr Collins comes along. In the short-term she escapes from her family and gains a comfortable home of her own… in the long-term she’ll end up mistress of Longbourn, which must make Mr Collins very attractive, even if he is pompous, stupid and sycophantic. She sees an opportunity and grabs it with both hands, and who can blame her!

  9. Hilary
    October 6, 2011

    Why, Jonathan! Fancy seeing you here! :D *Usual friendly wave*

    Lisa, if I find one at the next Bring ‘n’ Buy, I will – erm – take a look at it, I promise. I understand the ‘unmentionables’ thing a lot better now you’ve explained the embarrassment factor – that’s interesting.

  10. Lisa
    October 6, 2011

    I suppose the good thing about becoming mistress of Longbourn is that it has enough rooms that Charlotte needn’t be in the same one as her husband. And of course even before that, her first marital home comes with a nice garden/bolt hole. I’d give her one month tops in a bedsit with Mr Collins . . . *shudders at the very thought.*

    Hilary, I am hoping curiosity will get the better of you. Report back if you do succumb to the allure of P&P&Z. Even if you hate it, I know you’ll have something interesting to say about why that is so.

  11. Jonathan Pinnock
    October 6, 2011

    *Usual friendly wave back at Hilary* I know. Couldn’t help myself. Sorry. Bad Jon.

  12. gaskella
    October 7, 2011

    I really enjoyed this, bits were hilarious. I wish more prominent characters had been made zombies – Bingley’s cousins could have been great value.

  13. rosyb
    October 7, 2011

    I wonder how fond (or not) you have to be of P&P – or how familiar with zombie genre…Comedy is welcome though – would I like, do you think, Lisa?

  14. Christine
    October 7, 2011

    I kept hearing about this book. I wasn’t sure it really existed. Now that it has been reviewed here, I am sure it does. I love Jane Austin and I heartily agree that she would have smirked at the thought of zombies. I am sure, from her own writing, that her opinion of many of the people she depicts (Bingley cousins being good examples) would not have differed much from her opinion of the unmentionables!

    (Note to self: Would this be better on an audio book where I could hear some lovely dry English accented voice read the text or would I enjoy it more on the page?)

  15. Nikki
    October 7, 2011

    I keep looking at this and the Sea Monsters one. Not sure I’d want to part with cash for it, but I want to read it, just because I’m so curious about how Elizabeth and Darcy interact when they’re both holding swords. The mind boggles.

  16. Lisa
    October 8, 2011

    Gaskella, I agree about more prominent characters becoming zombies and also about it being hilarious in places.

    Rosy, I don’t think you need be that familiar with the zombie genre, but familiarity with P&P helps in terms of the comedy. I don’t know if you’d like it, Rosy, maybe not, because there’s still a fair amount of Austen and I know you’re not a fan.

    Christine, what a good idea about an audiobook – I think that it would be really fun to listen to this book read aloud in a dry English accent!

    Nikki, maybe if you see a copy in a library it might be worth a peek? It was a book I enjoyed for the lightness and fun. Not a taxing read by any means, but a refreshing one.

  17. Pingback: Jane Austen Made Me Do It: story collection (LTER) « Stewartry

  18. Pingback: The Literary Horizon: At the Mountains of Madness, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies « The Literary Omnivore

  19. Pingback: Books of the year (so far) « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on October 6, 2011 by in Entries by Lisa, Fiction: historical, Fiction: Horror, Fiction: humour and tagged , , , , .

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