Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I have tasted many a heart

Jane Austen is in the news once again with new theories about the cause of her death. She and Edgar Allan Poe apparently were suffering from so many diseases that it's amazing they lived as long as they did! The latest theory is that poor Jane was done in by tuberculosis caught from cattle. Stranger things have happened, I suppose!

Jane Austen's characters remain a fertile ground for modern authors to manipulate. Who knew that zombies roamed the land in 19th century rural England? Poor Elizabeth Bennet had enough problems with her wild sisters, genteel poverty and uppity suitors without throwing in the added difficulties of zombie hoards roaming the countryside. Still, that is what she has to contend with in the imaginative novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

The story of Lizzy Bennet and her four sisters remains the same (the elder sisters calm and in search of suitable marriage partners, the younger silly things in pursuit of flirtations with soldiers). In this instance, however, all have studied the "deadly arts" for many years in China under the tutelage of Master Liu. As their home area is overrun by a plague of zombies, their expertise in dispatching the unmentionables is frequently put into action.

At the same time, there are the social niceties of balls, visits and letter-writing to be attended to. Every social outing is fraught with the possibility of zombie attack, but Elizabeth is just as likely to attempt to decapitate non-zombies who annoy her. In this sense alone, there is a great improvement on the original novel -- the women of the book are literally more powerful than the men for once.

There are also the usual scandals and misunderstandings which result in lovers being united and parted in sometimes amusing ways. Poor, foolish Lydia is given a suitable punishment for disgracing the family by eloping with a soldier.

As amusing as the novel was, my favorite part came at the very end in the form of a "Reader's Discussion Guide." Those questions were hilarious! My favorite: "Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the authors' views toward marriage -- an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and won't die. Do you agree . . . ?" All in all, the book was a very funny and enjoyable take on the beloved Jane Austen novel.

Final Verdict for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Four Gherkins, for being an amusing update on a classic novel

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