Book Review – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Product DetailsI recently finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen (allegedly), which I’d found brand-new and mint condition in a charity shop for £1.50. That’s definitely worth a punt!

Overall, I found it a good read. I have read the ‘original’, and even seen TV adaptations of it, but to be totally honest that was in school and I’m not even sure there was any work or essay involved in it beyond just going through the motions of reading it as a class, and/or watching the television. I can sum up my total knowledge of it before I read this book as “Many Bennett sisters want to get married, there is a mean guy named Darcy who Elizabeth hates.” Which is probably the ground-state of knowledge, like what everyone knows about Superman, Romeo and Juliet, or Macbeth.

There were parts of And Zombies that made me think they were poking fun at or paying homage to the original in a way that is opaque to outsiders but absolutely obvious to someone familiar with the work. One chapter, which was only a paragraph long, summed up a whole journey as essentially not worth writing about. Does the original book go into lavish detail of the countryside passed and the entire trip’s trivia? I know Tess of the D’Urbervilles was far over the top as a traveller’s almanac, but I honestly can’t remember enough of Pride and Prejudice to say the same.

In some places, I had to scoff and thought it was going a little over the top – Elizabeth ripping out the still beating heart of a ninja in front of a noblewoman, for instance. But it was still entertaining, and as much as the action scenes were exaggerated and a little foolish, I found that I was getting bored and restless if it went too long between them. That’s the only thing that has stopped me from trying to find a cheap/borrowed copy of the original to read, because although my interest has been raised – I want to know how close this version is to the original – the ‘zombie-less’ parts of the book were, at times, a bit of a chore.

The only major criticism I have of the book is that the zombies are mentioned often, but always using one of a small handful of period-consistent terms. When used once, these terms are an interesting look at how zombies may have been seen in that sort of world, but each one is repeated over and over again. One of the least appealing is the word ‘unmentionables’ – since they are called that often, and while some characters talk of nothing else, Mrs Bennett is the only person I can think of off the top of my head that might not have mentioned zombies at all. They are far from unmentionable, people talk about them all the time! And while Mrs Bennett rarely (if ever) talked about zombies, she talked about her daughters fighting abilities – which is itself a direct consequence of the zombie plague.

Zombie references also feel shoe-horned in many places – the best uses are more subtle, like the fact that mail is expected to be delayed, as coaches must be more heavily armed when crossing the countryside, and even then may be attacked and require a better provisioned coach to recover mail and deliver it. The turning of Miss Lucas was most interesting when it was at a distance – the frequency and quality of her letters dropping, Elizabeth wondering when (or if) the next one would arrive, or whether her disease has been discovered and what fate befell her.

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