I have a confession to make – I’ve never been able to finish the real Pride and Prejudice. My female literary friends berate me about this constantly and even my sister, who accepts the rest of my literary eccentricities, can’t seem to let it go.
This is not to say I haven’t tried. I have. Three times. I’ve read Austen before – Northanger Abbey, in “Poe and the Gothic” freshman year. Of course, I had issues with that novel as well. I went into this book hoping against hope that I would discover what it was that made Pride and Prejudice so… appealing to so many of my dear friends. My patience, however, waned and I felt myself slipping – even with the addition of the zombie mayhem. See, the problem is the tone of the novel. Seth Grahame-Smith actively mimics Austen’s style and I think that style is exactly what causes me such frustration: she is a dry author. She rarely uses truly descriptive language – although when she does, the results are wonderous. The scenes where Lizzy and Darcy finally come together are wildly romantic and I understand why so many people look at the book and say “my god, how wonderful” but its GETTING TO THAT POINT that can be tough.
The plot of the original is largely kept intact – its still the Bennett sisters, still Darcy and Bingley and Wickham, still Lady Catherine, etc etc. The characters are all still essentially the same as they were previously – though Lady Catherine takes on a more physically active role than I recall from the original (of course, I never finished the original… so…) and the zombie menace has slightly altered some attitudes. I think, actually, the introduction of the zombies is what allows the novel to take on a little more zip. I’m an elitist and would love to have lived in 1800 high-society England but reading about it can get dull. Yes, its all about the romance but when its all about the romance, it (in effect) becomes a romance novel and jesus christ I have enough romantic issues in my own life – give me a little something else to balance it out and make it more interesting. Apparently the trilogy that follows the story from Darcy’s perspective does a good job at adding in some political stuff – that would be interesting to me. Just dallying around with the girls being girls gets boring, I’m sorry.
So the addition of a zombie menace just makes sense. Sure, its a little disconcerting to see Elizabeth Bennett kicking ass with a katana… but the idea of this threat adds a level of tension to the novel. It makes it like the best WWII London novels – people trying to go on with life under the shadow of this horror. Its that that makes this novel worth reading. I didn’t think it really was, at first – I got about halfway through and toyed with dropping it (as I had dropped the source text so many times previously). But then I started to treat the zombie stuff as less for laughs and more seriously – and while there are still some moments that make you shake your head in tragic dismay (Kiss Me Deer, for example), the book takes on a real urgency. In the end, I’m glad that Grahame-Smith opted to treat the new scenes in the same tone as Austen’s original work, because it flowed rather seamlessly. Sure, it sounds arch and not-a-little artificial when taken out of context, but by the end of the novel it WORKS.
Plus, this got me to finish the book and understand why everyone loves Darcy. And why people have told me I’m like Darcy, though I don’t want to inflate my own ego too much. Of course, I’m keeping a blog about the books I read and there are few things more egotistical than that. Am I right?
Oh, biggest complaint? you can’t fuck with the opening line, man. “A zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains”? Bad move – should have kept the opening line – maybe tacked a little “even during a zombie uprising” tag on the end, but nothing more. That line is one of those things that you CANNOT touch, even if you mess with the rest of the novel. That turned so many people OFF of this book who would otherwise have enjoyed it (I’m looking at you, Christina). Because the novel is still all about that concept of a single man being in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife – …there just happen to be zombies about as well.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. It was entertaining, interesting, quirky… but also boring, dull, and stupid at times… in the end, it was fluff and won’t ever be held in any real esteem by anybody. Definitely worth reading by English majors who take themselves too seriously, though.