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Tracing Jane: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Posted: 26th March 2015
Category: Jane Austen Books
Tracing Jane: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Tracing Jane: Nearly two hundred years after her works were first published, Jane Austen not only continues to appeal to readers of all ages and backgrounds, but also inspires writers and artists in different genres and media. This rubric will trace Austen’s work into the twenty-first century and investigate the fascinations, imaginations and, perhaps, annoyances which led these different artists to put their own spin on her classic novels.

At first glance, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (‘The classic regency romance – now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem’) sounds like an idea so mad it could be brilliant. Unfortunately, however, I was forced to conclude that the addition of the living dead could add very little to Austen’s work.

Initially, the sheer daring craziness of the novel inspires an undeniable curiosity. The thought of Lizzy as a fearless warrior, trained in the Orient, did appeal to me; and nowhere does the Bennet sisters’ proficiency in death-dealing affect their mother’s nervous chatter or their father’s cynicism. The zombie menace on the roads adds further danger to journeys to Meryton or Netherfield, and where has this new ‘strange plague’ come from? The construction of London as a fortress and the Militia as a zombie-fighting force fit into the narrative nicely, and show that these aspects have been well thought out.

 

The illustrations, furthermore, provide assistance in visualising the zombie mayhem in Georgian Hertfordshire. Unfortunately, the novelty of this idea is insufficient to sustain a rewriting of the entire novel. Moreover, Grahame-Smith does not appear to know the novel very thoroughly either: Mary’s leaping on the table to avenge an insult from Mr Collins is too out of character to be believed, Mrs Gardiner’s Lambton-based affair seems an unnecessary addition, and Mr Darcy’s frequent bawdy jokes eventually become rather tiresome.

As the narrative develops, it seems to spin out of control; the zombie element becomes more forced and loses its initial appeal. It is clear that Grahame-Smith cares little for the original novel, and has not thoroughly thought through its adaption. The blurb on the Quirk Classics edition reads ‘Jane Austen is the author of Sense and SensibilityPersuasionMansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English literature. Seth Grahame-Smith once took a class in English literature.’ It is to be presumed that Pride and Prejudice was not the topic of this class.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith is published by Quirk Books and priced at $12.95, or £9.99 in the UK.

Featured image: Illustration to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, via FanPop



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