Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Earlier this year I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and as one would expect from the title, it was amazing. When people expressed puzzlement over what the book would be like, I responded with, "It's Pride and Prejudice. With zombies." And a big part of what made the book so enjoyable was reading familiar dialogue that had a whole different meaning. For instance, my favorite example of this is when Lady Catherine questions Elizabeth about her education, etc. In the original novel, Lady Catherine is of course asking about the standard education for young women of gentility. She expresses shock that five girls have been brought up without a governess. In P & P & Z, the "education" they discuss is their martial arts education (aimed of course at how to defend oneself against zombies). Lady Catherine expresses shock that they have no ninjas, if I recall correct.

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but the whole concept of the same, traditional dialogue having a new, zombie-related meaning, was my favorite thing about the book.

After reading P & P & Z, I anxiously awaited the release of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Now, Sense and Sensibility is actually the only one of Austen's books that I have not actually read, but I own two separate film adaptations, and I love both of them.

But I didn't find S & S & SM to be nearly as enjoyable as P & P & Z. Mostly because the story had much more significant deviations from Austen's story than P & P & Z did. Apparently this was intentional. I read in an article by S & S & SM's author that the feedback on P & P & Z asked for less of Austen's original text. (As the article reports, 85% of P & P & Z was Austen's text.) So the publisher gave the author of S & S & SM permission to embellish significantly more. Blasphemy, I say.

Not that there aren't high points to S & S & SM. The scene where Lucy Steele tells Elinor about her engagement to Edward is pretty awesome. And there was one line by Mrs. Jennings that was utter delight, but all in all, I didn't find as much humor here as I did in P & P & Z. I think there may be another reason for that, however, apart from the dialogue/text. Pride and Prejudice is just full of characters ripe for parody; Sense and Sensibility, less so. Mrs. Jennings and Sir John were pretty much it as far as humor goes in S & S & SM. But in P & P & Z we had Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine, Lydia, Wickham, and Charlotte Lucas (hands down the funniest).

I'm curious to see what Quirk books will tackle next, however.

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