Review: Mansfield Park and Mummies, by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian

February 8, 2010 Sundries 1

Mansfield Park and Mummies, by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian

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Description: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights

Spinsterhood or Mummification!

Ancient Egypt infiltrates Regency England in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic monster parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel.

Our gentle yet indomitable heroine Fanny Price must hold steadfast not only against the seductive charms of Henry Crawford but also an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh!

Meanwhile, the indubitably handsome and kind hero Edmund attempts Exorcisms… Miss Crawford vamps out… Aunt Norris channels her inner werewolf… The Mummy-mesmerized Lady Bertram collects Egyptian artifacts…

There can be no doubt that Mansfield Park has become a battleground for the forces of Ancient Evil and Regency True Love!

Gentle Reader — this Delightful Edition includes Scholarly Footnotes and Appendices.

This review is based on a free, review copy received from the publisher/author.

The Bibliomaniac’s Review:

I admit to coming into this novel as a virgin, in a way.  I’ve never read the original Mansfield Park; the only Jane Austen book I’ve read was Pride and Prejudice, and that was for a college English class (and I didn’t care for it much; Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were more my style).  And although I own both Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters, I haven’t gotten around to reading either of them yet.  So I had no preconceptions when I read this, only a general idea of what it was about.

The new material added here is amazing; Nazarian has matched her writing style to Austen’s so precisely that, if I had not known this book was one of the more recent collaborations between the long-dead author and a living co-author, I would have thought I had stumbled across a detour from the usual comedies of manners that Austen was known for – a detour that led straight into the Twilight Zone.  The joining of old and new prose is all the more seamless for the time period and setting.  England was indeed going through an Egyptology craze at the time Mansfield Park takes as its background, and nobles and moneyed mercantile families alike were buying up every bit of Egyptian antiquity they could get their hands on, including vaguely Egyptian-looking forgeries.

The humor here is not the pratfalls and pie-in-the-face type; instead, it tends toward sly irreverence in the classic British style.  Think Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Red Dwarf.  For example, you might find vampires and werewolves in any urban fantasy, and while mummies are a bit less common, where else are you likely to find a demon duck?  There are plenty of authorial footnotes in the book, too, all written with a dry, wry tone that makes it hard to keep from laughing.  It’s probably not a good idea to try reading this book while drinking anything; you wouldn’t want to get the pages wet.  (Or your keyboard, if you’re reading this as an e-book).

If this book has a flaw, it would have to be its length, which is substantial.   To be fair, this is not a flaw for all readers.  Many readers prefer a long story to savor and enjoy, as is evident by the number of fans of J. K. Rowling and Stephen King.  However, Mansfield Park and Mummies contains within its 555 pages not only the entirety of the original Austen novel, but all the additional material for the sub-plot; nothing comes across as extraneous, and nowhere does the story lag.

In a market that is about to be glutted with a flood of similar collaborations (a prequel to P&P&Z, a version of Huckleberry Finn with zombies, a version of War of the Worlds with zombies, and yet another version of Pride and Prejudice, this one with Darcy as a vampire), Mansfield Park and Mummies stands out far and above the competitors—not just head and shoulders above, but so far above the others that it might as well be wearing stilts.  Ignore the latecomer wannabes and pick up Manfield Park and Mummies instead.  You won’t be sorry you did.