It should come as a surprise to no one that I like zombies. I’m a fan and have found one thing to true – everything goes better with zombies. Everything – even Jane Austen. That’s clear from the first line of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” – “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” Classic.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a big Jane Austen fan. With apologies to my high school English teacher, Mr. Blackwood, I have to say that I’ve never really had much desire to read Austen. In fact, I can’t remember having ever read “Pride and Prejudice” before. I’ve seen the movie, which I did enjoy in spite of myself (although as an aside, I just don’t get Keira Knightley. What’s the big deal?) So, it was with a somewhat blank slate that I went in to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. But as I said – everything goes better with zombies, so I was optimistic.
In case you don’t know, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” took the literary world by storm last year. Some loved, some hated it, but very many people where talking about it. It’s what might best be described as a re-imagined mash-up of classic Jane Austen and zombies. The co-author, Seth Grahame-Smith, endeavored to add an entirely new subplot to the story concerning an ongoing zombie plague in England. All of the Bennett sisters have been trained in the “deadly arts” in China, and are tasked with protecting their town from the zombie hordes. They still fall in love, get married, etc. – but they also fight zombies. Grahame-Smith said in the introduction that he tried to change at least one word on every page of the original story. The result is a seamless incorporation of the zombie plague into this classic story.
Having said that, I understand now why I’ve never read Austen before. I had to, at times, force myself through passages of the book. Evidently I’m too much a product of popular culture and found Austen’s style to be a barrier to my enjoyment of the book. I also have to say – with apologies to Austen fans everywhere – I just didn’t enjoy the root story of “Pride and Prejudice” all that much. Perhaps the original brings to bear a more interesting progression of characters and more satisfying conclusion to the story. To me it was too much discussion of why this sister liked this gentleman (or not), and seemed to be much ado about nothing in the end. They got married and moved on. It was unfulfilling and disappointing. Thank goodness for the zombies to get me through.
I’m a fan of the re-imagining of a classic tale (“Wicked” is both one of my favorite musicals and favorite books), the unexpected perspective on a simple story (“Noises Off…” is a brilliant movie that you should see), and the mash-up of different source materials (the musical mash-ups are too numerous to name, but I’ve always loved “Numb/Encore”). This book fits very well in to those categories. It was an ambitious and audacious attempt at taking a classic of western literature and making it something new and unexpected. On that count, I have to give Grahame-Smith credit for the attempt – he managed to make Austen palatable, but fell short of making her enjoyable. Hopefully the next classic/zombie mash-up will start on more fertile ground. “Of Zombies and Men” anyone?
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