I was invited by Entangled Publishing to review Zombie Abbey and be part of their blog tour. I was initially attracted to this book because to me, it had obvious connotations of both Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey which can only be a good thing surely? I am also a massive fan of the literary mash-up with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, being among my favourites, so I thought, why not give this a go? Also Baratz-Logsted was also once a bookseller, as was I, so I have an instant affinity with her and fellow booksellers!
Zombie Abbey by Lauren Baratz-Logsted is set in 1920 at Porthampton Abbey. This is an upper-class household (headed by Lord and Lady Clarke) with three daughters who need to make good marriages in order to fulfil the wishes of their father. Lady Katherine is the eldest at seventeen and this weekend is host to three would-be suitors but she really has eyes (though she denies it) for stable boy Will Harvey. Grace Clarke, aged sixteen, is perhaps the most likable sister though she is not as brave at first at her sisters. Elizabeth (Lizzy) Clarke, aged fifteen, is the youngest sister and the cheekiest and least responsible. Interestingly, Baratz-Logsted includes the information that girls of an upper-class family such as the Clarkes were expected to marry in order. The first daughter was expected to bring an heir into the family, the second was expected to marry a man in the British Navy and the third daughter was expected to marry a clergyman. All of this sounds very Jane Austen and actually goes some way to explaining the preponderance of naval men, clergymen and the like in her stories.
This scenario seems quite typical, until the peasants start to revolt or be revolting in the literal sense. The stable boy Will Harvey’s uncle ‘Ezra,’ is the first casualty to rise again as a zombie. The Clarke family are informed of this, but the idea is at first squashed by Dr Zebulon Webb who believes that Jessamine, Ezra’s wife has hallucinated the whole event in a state of hysterical grief. Will however believes her. Fanny Rogers the housemaid, also thinks that something is not right and at first, thinks that vampires are responsible. A nice reference to Bram Stoker’s Dracula is made here, which was only published a couple of decades before.
The setting of 1920 is interesting because the characters at times refer to WWI and the effect that it has had on them, notably this can be seen in the character of Daniel Murray, the handsome Second Footman. Daniel Murray at times seems (to our enjoyment) to hold his service over that of some of the upper-class men who have managed to escape active duty. He served underage, at the age of fourteen, which was sadly not uncommon amongst soldiers, but is truly shocking when thought of in a modern context, it seems almost unbelievable.
The contempt that the upper classes have for the servants is smashed, once people start turning into zombies and they are forced to work together to conquer the evil that has invaded their home!
Overall, this is a fun read and would appeal to lovers of classical literature, mash-ups and horror. Why not follow the blog tour here.