There’s sushi, vomit, zombies, gratuitous violence and modest ladies who can balance their entire, upside down bodies on one finger (a “modesty string” around the ankles makes sure the skirts obey decency instead of gravity). What’s not to adore about “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies“? Hand Ms. Austen her smelling salts and let Seth Grahame-Smith tell you about split skulls, the resemblance between cauliflower and brains, and the importance of always having a musket or a sword on your person. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is one of the stupidest, funnest books I’ve read in a long time and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to giggle.
The story is one that Jane Austen may recognise. The Bennett family is there, intact, and Mrs. Bennet is as much an idiot as she is in Austen’s version. Mr. Bennet, however, aside from being a long-suffering husband is also an expert in the art of killing. As part of his fatherly duties, he has taken his daughters to China and had them trained under a Master Liu so that they could conquer the 36 chambers of Shaolin (Bruce Lee, make way for Lizzy Bennet) and become martial arts experts. Why, you ask? Because England is overrun by zombies. Brain-slurping, gut-ripping zombies. This is the point at which Austen would probably faint becomingly. Don’t bother to pass her the smelling salts because her co-writer Seth Grahame-Smith has inserted certain tweaks into the story and the characters. There’s a lot of vomiting that takes place although our heroine Lizzy does manage to engage in this activity with grace and subtlety while the only word for Mrs. Bennet’s vomiting is copious. The answer to most annoyances is either being caned with a wet bamboo or a beheading though Jane does restrain Lizzy on numerous occasions. Charlotte marries Mr. Collins because she is turning into a zombie and would like to enjoy being married for the last few months of her life. Mr. Darcy and Lizzy don’t duel with words as much as wrestle with each other. The girls spend hours practicing in their dojo. Yes, every respectable English home has a dojo and the wealthy have ninjas as bodyguards. In fact, Darcy’s home in Derbyshire, Pemberley, is a Japanese structure and his housekeeper wears a kimono. Incidentally, there’s a healthy rivalry — well, not very healthy for the ninja who are killed in the process but anyway — between the Japanese and Chinese styles of martial arts training. By the end of it, I’d say China is declared the winner.
Personal favourite moments:
1. When Lizzy chops off Lydia’s head. (yep, it happens)
2. Their games like “Crypt or Coffin” and “Kiss Me Deer”.
3. “When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having promised to give them a demonstration of her considerable finger strength; and she set about fastening a modesty string around her ankles. Lady Catherine and the others observed as Elizabeth placed her hands upon the floor and lifted her feet heavenward — her dress kept in place by the modesty string. Holding herself thus, she then lifted one of her palms off the floor, so that all of her weight rested on but one hand. … she lifted her palm so that only one fingertip remained connected to the floor. … Elizabeth… began walking about the room on her fingertips… [and] remaind on her fingertips till her ladyship’s carriage was ready to take them home.”
4. “She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. ‘Your balls, Mr. Darcy?’ He reached out and closed her hand around them and offered, ‘They belong to you, Miss Bennet.'”
5. Reader’s discussion guide questions 6 (“Vomit plays an important role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies… Do the authors mean for this regurgitation to symbolize something greater, or is it a cheap device to get laughs?”) and 10 (“Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of the living dead are integral to Jane Austen’s plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?”)
So pointless, so much fun and so expensive for a book (Rs. 540! Gasp!) that really should be ridiculously cheap, particularly considering the shoddy quality of the binding.
Other titles from Quirk Classics include “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” and “Android Karenina“. Tragically, I doubt I’d get a review copy but fortunately, I have more restraint and less kicking power than Lizzy Bennett.