Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

December 7, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith (Quirk, 2009)
319 p. First reading.

It’s a gimmick, but a pretty good one as these things go: collide the conventions of a civilized comedy of manners with those of a blood-soaked horror flick, and enjoy the diverting results. Miss Austen’s illustrious novel has been trimmed down and streamlined to make way for scenes of slaughter of marauding hordes of the undead.  The Bennet girls, though still keen to land handsome husbands, pass the time brandishing swords and honing their hand-to-hand combat skills in the family dojo.  Even venerable old Lady Catherine de Bourgh goes about accompanied by ninjas, and she conceals formidable strength and a will to kill under that matronly gown.  You get the idea.

I read the first quarter of the book with attention, and then began to skim through to see what Grahame-Smith had done with my favourite scenes.  This isn’t laugh-out-loud humour, as least not most of the time.  It will raise your eyebrows and perhaps provoke a grimace.  There’s a definite camp element at play, and the primary effect of the interpolations is to open up an ironic distance between the reader and the story. The main arc of Austen’s original is left largely intact, but of course the charm of the story, which is substantially in the tone, cannot really survive all the abrupt interruptions. The moral centre of Austen’s writing is destroyed utterly. Even so, there is something modestly likable, and very contemporary, about the audacious humour of the book. I would be surprised if a film version is not in the works — ah yes, it is so.

Here is my favourite of Grahame-Smith’s contributions:

“How nicely we are all crammed in,” cried Lydia.  “I am glad I bought my bonnet, if it is only for the fun of having another hatbox!  Well, now let us be quite comfortable and snug, and talk and laugh all the way home.  And in the first place, let us hear what has happened to you all since you went away.  Have you seen any pleasant men?  Have you had any flirting?  I was in great hopes that one of you would have got a husband before you came back.  Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare… [She goes on and on in this fashion, which I omit for the sake of brevity.] … We had such a good piece of fun the other day at Colonel Forster’s.  Kitty and me were to spend the day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in the evening; (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are such friends!) and so she asked the two Harringtons to come, but Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come by herself –”

Elizabeth presently drew her Katana and cut off Lydia’s head, which fell into the open hatbox.

Atta girl, Lizzy.

2 Responses to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

  1. Janet Says:

    I would give a pretty penny to cut off Lydia’s head.

  2. cburrell Says:

    You’re not the only one.


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