I remember the first time I learned of the existence of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It was 2009, and I was perusing my local Powell’s. Back then, genre fiction was mostly dominated by steampunk and supernatural teen fair. This mash-up of period piece and horror tropes came at just the right time in literary history.
But I’ll confess I rolled my eyes at first.
The idea sounded like a joke uttered by hipsters three IPAs in at a discount microbrewery. And, frankly, that’s how I imagined the pitch session went. As far as I know – and from what Wikipedia tells me – the editor of the book approached the author with the idea. I can only assume marijuana was involved, too, but that’s purely conjecture.
That said, the genre mash-up geek in me was intrigued . . . but not enough so to buy it. No, that desire didn’t emerge until after I learned that the jokey genre-bender had been optioned as a movie. A movie to be directed by David O. Russell, and starring . . .
They had my attention. I thought it would be nifty to read Pride and Prejudice, and then follow that up with its zombified version. All for the sake of being one of those lit-snobs that left the movie touting, “It wasn’t as good as the book, and that wasn’t as good as the original.” Cue stuffy snort.
Years went by, though, and the movie was stuck in development hell. I gradually forgot (or, rather, lost interest in) the whole prospect of reading both books. I had even started the original Pride and Prejudice, but gave up a third of the way in. Moving on to shinier, more “manly” pursuits.
In the summer of 2013, while attending my first World Tea Expo, I made the acquaintance of Julia Arrasmith-Matson, the purveyor of a tea company called Bingley’s Teas.
As the name would suggest, her flagship series of teas was a Jane Austen themed collection. She even told me of the various Pride and Prejudice blends in the series, including one called “Miss Elizabeth”. Before we parted ways, we exchanged contact info.
A month or so later, an idea percolated. What if I could get her to make a one-off blend for a blog? I had this notion of drinking an apocalyptic version of her Miss Elizabeth blend . . . while reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
I got in touch with Julia and asked if this was a possibility. My idea was for her to sprinkle a little bit of Lapsang Souchong in with the Elizabeth blend. I had no idea what was in it, or whether or not it would work as a fusion, but such a mash-up would fit the theme of the book. Plus, it would match the potential blog I wanted to write.
She said she’d see what she could do. Given that she was planning a trip to Portland that August, anyway, she promised she would deliver the results (if any) then. And so, the deal was struck.
That August, when we finally met up, she handed me a bag of samples – including the one I requested. But there was a caveat. She said, “I want you to make it explicitly clear that this is not something I’m selling. Nor is it something I’m selling in the future. Got it?”
The results of blending Lapsang with the Elizabeth blend, she said, were . . . troublesome. Julia even expressed her discontent on the sample bag itself. By drawing a felt mustache on the “Zombie Elizabeth”.
I promised to mention that this was my fault when it came time to write about it. Although, I couldn’t understand why she was displeased with it. The original Elizabeth blend contained a Chinese black tea, Kenilworth Ceylon, dried cranberries, blue mallow petals, and natural flavors of sweetness. The hint of smoke provided by the dash of Lapsang Souchong actually complemented the blend, at least on smell.
A couple of months after that, I finally bought a copy of the zombie mash-up. All I had to do now was procure a copy of the original. But I eventually forgot, and then a year or so passed.
In 2014, it was announced that the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie had been resurrected. This time with a director I didn’t know at the helm and with Lily James (of Downton Abbey fame) in the title role. Nothing about that sounded right at all. The movie trailer was equally off-putting. There was no jokey tone to be found anywhere.
Then I remembered my “project”. Now, I had a new mission! Read Pride and Prejudice, then read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and finally . . . see the damn movie with a flask of the “Zombie Elizabeth” blend in hand.
Months would go by, and I started neither book. That and when I finally went about looking for my copy of Zombies, it was somehow missing. I dug through the entirety of my room and turned up nothing. Then I remembered that I may have lent it to a friend at one point. But I couldn’t remember who, when . . . or why.
The first week of February 2016, the movie came out. Friends and I were determined to see it on a cheap night that following Tuesday. This project was still kinda/sorta salvageable. I could just drink the blend during the movie, and write about that.
Well, no. I forgot it at home. Instead, I paired the movie with free root beer.
The movie itself was . . . okay. Just as the mash-up took liberties with the book (or so a friend told me), the movie took liberties with the mash-up. It was basically a zombie movie with only the basic structure of Pride and Prejudice intact. A shambling corpse, if you will. Aspects of it were fun, but it tried to take itself far too seriously way too often
That and Lily James – who absolutely oozes charisma no matter what she’s in – was no Elizabeth. Nothing about her was tough-as-nails enough or witty enough to be Elizabeth. Even when she uttered some of the original Austenian dialogue that did make it into the movie, it just seemed wrong somehow.
Lily James is a Lydia, or even a Jane, but not an Elizabeth.
Whoah . . . put that way, dear.
The day after the movie, and three years after receiving it, I finally dipped into the “Zombie Elizabeth” blend.
I liked it. But I could definitely tell that the Lapsang Souchong added nothing spectacular to the original blend. Just like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies didn’t need to be made into a movie, and the original Pride and Prejudice didn’t need zombies to begin with. Proof that even if you can mash something up doesn’t mean you should.
But it’s fun to at least try.
To buy the unfettered Miss Elizabeth blend, now dubbed Liz Bennet’s Wit, go HERE.
Erin @ Platings and Pairings
I love how you tie these two experiences together so perfectly. Very well written Geoff!
I plan to sip one of the Bingley’s blends this weekend, and we are starting “Persuasion” . So I may be able to offer a sequel to this.
Please do. I will whore it in kind.
Rosie from Blog To Taste
I had a very similar thought- I should read Pride and Prejudice (because I have long wanted to) and then read the zombie version and see the movie. However, none of that has happened yet, and I have a feeling i will be seeing this film and not reading either of the books. Ah, life.
I’ve only seen two versions of Pride, one version of Zombie pride, and only read a third of one book. I understand.
Nice storytelling, I admire that you’re able to tell a tale of ideas that didn’t work out but the entire story still almost as fun to hear as if it was successful…
There is victory in failure!
I loved this…I’ve owned Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for ages, but have yet to read it (and I think I’ll pass on the movie). I’m actually not a P&P fan (frankly, I can’t stand Austen–and I’ve had to read all her books for classes in the past), but I would be more than willing to try this tea!
It’s incredibly rare to meat a non-Austenian.
I tried to watch “Death Comes to Pemberly,” but it was too scary for me. P&P&Z is WAY out of the question… but I’d love to sip some of that tea while watching the Kiera Knightly version of the original.
I am overly skeptical of the zombies version but I’ve heard it’s campy good fun… I’m not sure I’d ever be in the mood for that. Wonderful storytelling, as always!
“But it’s fun to at least try.”
That’s the spirit to make new zombie experiments or others!
this gave you a reason to set up some interesting concepts. Why not?
It’s good that you kept forgetting about the book – IMO – waste of time. P&P is probably my favorite of Austen’s novels but it’s not a sacred text or anything, so I read the mashup thinking it might be fun. Rather than using P&P as a framework and creating a zombie novel, the author took the original novel, language and all, and shoehorned in zombie bits using Austen style language. No flow at all – the zombie parts just stick out of the story like… well, a zombie at a regency ball.
I liked your idea of creating a unique blend, though -and am looking forward to trying that tea company!
They’re a good tea company. And, no worries, not planning on delving into the book anytime soon.