With the movie released in 2016, I was curious to see how good the book was.
To my great surprise, it is really fun to read (in a weird and respectful way) since it literally adds to Austen’s prose with some proficiency in the deadly arts but stays true to the characters and setting. No wonder it has sold millions of copies in the last eight years.
The Black Plague has taken a weird turn in Victorian England, and the “sorry stricken” are, simply, the risen dead. If you have read Pride and Prejudice, you know the stars of this novel already: five sisters, their father and mother, and two men, a nice Mr. Bingley and a put-up Mr. Darcy. Now, in the original Jane Austen, all the poor girls had to do was: gossip, balls, weaving, and writing letters until someone married them. Long walks were also in order, since only one carriage and two horses are useless for five different girls, and Elizabeth really liked to walk–a lot. So, having a few zombies around really does spice the narrative a bit:
Jane and Elizabeth tried to explain that all five of them were capable of fending for themselves; that they could make tolerable fortunes as bodyguards, assassins, or mercenaries if need be. But it was a subject Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason, and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared about anything about.
What Seth Grahame-Smith does is to build a world around an established one. And he is very successful. Since all the five sisters were trained in China under Master Liu, the awkward conversations between Darcy and Elizabeth are funnier than in the Austen version:
—No-I cannot talk of Orientals in a ball-room; my head is always full of something else.
—The present always occupies you in such scenes-does it?
—Yes, always, she replied, without knowing what she said, for her thoughts had wandered far from the subject–to the pain of Master Liu’s glowing brand searing her flesh; to sparring matches with her sisters atop a beam no wider than their swords, as spikes waited to punish an ill-placed foot below.
But, as Austen intended, this is not an adventure but a drama, and love is the ruler of the story: “Of all the weapons she had commanded, Elizabeth knew the least of love; and of all the weapons in the world, love was the most dangerous.”
The final match between her and Lady Catherine de Bourgh is wonderful to read, and I really hope it is in the movie as well.
This is a book I would heartily recommend to any young lady, and I rather think it’s an improvement on the original version. Of course, you may disagree, but I can defend my opinion with my blade, as Lizzy would do.