Book review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith
Published by Quirk Books, Philadelphia, PA 2009
Distributed in North America by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA
ISBN 10: 1594743347

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

As a longtime lover of Regency Romance, I thought I would hate reading this satirical version of “Pride and Prejudice”, after Seth Grahame-Smith finished adding his touch of Gothic Horror to the well-loved romantic classic. Surprisingly enough, it turned out to be readable; not only romantic, but funny! Especially in parts where Grahame-Smith expands upon Austin’s sometimes overblown prose to the point where you suspect him of having watched one too many episodes of “Month Python’s Flying Circus”.

Absurdity abounds in this book, where 18th Century England has been overwhelmed by a plague of zombies, transforming all the dead into carnivorous predators who attack at any hour of the day or night, forcing young ladies and gentlemen to learn martial arts in order to defend themselves and their people from the unmentionables, as they are politely called. But despite all the carnage taking place on England’s roads and in lonely places–sometimes even in one’s own drawing room, or in the kitchens, through a back door carelessly left open–there are still some traditionalists like Mrs. Bennet who firmly believe that it is a girl’s duty to be married. Her more practical spouse, after having his five daughters trained at a Shaolin monastery in China (how he can afford it on such a limited income from an entailed estate is never explained), believes their duty should be to battle the undead menace that threatens all England. Or as Austin/Grahame-Smith put it, “The business of Mr. Bennet’s life was to keep his daughters alive. The business of Mrs. Bennet’s was to get them married.”

The Reverend Collins, who winds up dumping the independent Elizabeth for her more passive friend Charlotte, comes off as even stupider than he was in the original book, as he is blissfully unaware that poor Charlotte, having been bitten by a zombie, is slowly turning into one of the undead. Upon learning of his daughter’s rejection of Collins and his wife’s displeasure thereby, Elizabeth’s father had me in stitches when he informed her that “Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do; for I shall not have my best warrior resigned to the service of a man who is fatter than Buddha and duller than the edge of a learning sword.”

In addition to the more purple prose, there are also the most delightfully gruesome illustrations, as well as a front cover showing a blood-spattered lady with half her face and part of her throat eaten away, her blood-red eyes giving away her zombified condition. The disagreeable Mr. Darcy has been transformed into a warrior, trained in the Japanese tradition, who admires the heroine’s Shaolin Chinese training as well as her dark eyes, while deploring the vulgarity of her family. This is enough to make Elizabeth determined to teach him a lesson, preferably at the point of her sword. The rest of the book is filled with accounts of their mutual sparring, verbal and physical, and frequently interrupted by hungry zombies, which they are forced to dispatch in a manner more appropriate to a low-budget horror film than a Regency Romance.

Yes, you’ll howl with laughter to see one of the classics of English Literature rewritten as a Gothic horror story. Even guys will enjoy this traditional Chick Lit novel, now that it’s been transformed into something they’d actually want to read, to quote the blurb on the inside cover. If you are squeamish or easily offended, by all means avoid this book. If you do choose to read it and are offended anyway, remember that it’s a satire, not to be taken seriously. But ardent Austin fans may be forgiven for hoping that Miss Austin rises from her grave in Winchester Cathedral to teach Mr. Grahame-Smith a painful and well-deserved lesson.