After reading Georgiana Darcy's Diary and enjoying it, I had a few friends recommend more Austen-y books. I wound up doing a very informal search on my local library's website and came up with loads of titles. Some were interesting, some were just awful, and two of them I didn't even make it to the 50 pages that super librarian Nancy Pearl recommends.
A few years ago, when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies first came out, I wound up reading the prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. It had no Austen source material and was not written by Mr. Grahame-Smith. It was okay, but only because of the Bennet characters and that it took place at Longbourne.
I finally got around to reading Grahame-Smith's book and, although it is extremely silly, he did truly honor Austen's work. It wasn't a bad read. I laughed and I did think he may have improved upon some of the storylines. In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Mr Darcy is concerned that Jane may have been infected and so he leads his friend from Netherfield and his blossoming love to, a girl he imagines is to become one of the "sorry stricken." It was tough to swallow the fact that Charlotte's outlook could be so grim that she believes that life with Mr. Collins can be happy for her. In Grahame-Smith's version, she has been infected and she knows that when the time comes, she takes comfort in the fact that her husband will dispatch her in a way to keep her from rising from her grave.
This is the story you know, but with a zombie story superimposed over the classic romance. For the most part, I got a kick out of Grahame-Smith's additions to the story. Some of his rewrites were interesting, but not all. Some of the Lizzie Bennet, warrior of "dreadfuls" and "unmentionables" (although "sorry stricken" is my absolute favorite zombie euphemism) was described with a little too much zest. Any slight and she feels honor bound to kill and she is quick to punish herself with the seven cuts of shame. Instead of her pride being wounded in that first encounter with Fitzwilliam Darcy and later being suspicious of his motives when she is in his company, she spends an awful lot of time wanting to separate his head from his body. I like to think of Lizzie as feisty, and definitely a strong female lead, but it felt wrong that she was so bloodthirsty.
What was good in this book? While I think the author made Lizzie a bit too much of a warrior, I felt that he appreciated the character as a strong female lead, as she deserves. I liked his take on the Jane/Bingley separation, may have preferred Charlotte's reasoning here and enjoyed how he gave a clearer picture of how Lady Catherine got to be such a force to be reckoned with. I think Wickham and Lydia may have been over punished, but they had at least some of that coming to them. Do you remember the first time you read the story and you put yourself into Elizabeth Bennet's shoes and it took you a while to realize they were falling in love and that his pride and standoffishness and her unrelenting prejudice and wounded pride kept her from noticing the change in his behavior and feelings toward her? Here, the author inserts little hints, which I appreciated. I would imagine it's because in every subsequent reading, I've paid closer attention to those subtleties. It was just a nice little bit of validation for me as a loyal reader.
What didn't I like? Lizzie was a little too hard, Lady Catherine was not just creepy and mean, but so very lethal and murderous. I think that might have been a little over the top. While I appreciated some of the training and back story and even the ways in which the Bennets' lives were different here, there was way more than just some. Grahame-Smith turned it up to 11, I'm not sure that was really necessary.
One of the books I didn't finish was the sequel to this sequel, Dreadfully Ever After, which was written by Steve Hockensmith, who wrote the prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. In it, Darcy is infected with the zombie virus and Lady Catherine may have the cure, but she insists that she and Anne (who was pathetic in the Austen classic and is revolting here) will care for him and that if Elizabeth wants to save her husband, she has to sacrifice her name and her honor. It was entirely too mean of a scenario for me to want to continue.
Now, for the links and video portions of this post:
~ Amazon offers a "deluxe heirloom" edition of this book.. I can only make fun of this so much. I own Christopher Moore's Lamb in the special edition, bound in bible leather.
~ Has anyone else seen this story? Apparently, singer Kelly Clarkson purchased Jane Austen's ring at an auction. Her fiancee had it reproduced for her engagement ring and the Brits are trying to raise the funds to buy it back and keep it in the country.
~ Here is the trailer for the interactive e-book version of the book:
And, an interview with the author: