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'Little Women and Werewolves': Adding scary twist to classic novel

First came Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, then Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim and more.

Continuing the monster mashup trend of classic literature laced with horror is Little Women and Werewolves (DelRey, $14) by Louisa May Alcott and Porter Grand, coming to bookstores May 4.

The method for this wacky macabre genre: Choose a beloved, much-read and — most importantly — out-of-copyright 19th century novel. Preserving much of the original work, layer on a plague of fiends, weaving them into the original plot and having them interact with the book's characters.

So, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters became ninja zombie fighters. In Little Women and Werewolves, Jo March and her sisters Meg, Beth and Amy live in a world where about a quarter of the population are werewolves. A militia called the Brigade hunts down the lycanthropes, often accusing people of being werewolves — or "werewolf sympathizers" — on little evidence, while the girls' father, who's serving as a chaplain in the Civil War, believes werewolves can be rehabilitated.

As the story develops, the March girls and their dear Marmee must contend not just with genteel poverty and teen angst but with figuring out just which of their friends and relations might tear them to bits under the next full moon.

Little Women and Werewolves does a fine job or preserving the tone of Alcott's writing — although Beth's sentimental death scene is, well, extremely re-imagined.

As for Alcott, is she growling in her grave over this remix of her best-known book? She actually balked at writing the semi-autobiographical Little Women, doing so only because her publisher wanted a virtuous book for girls. She much preferred writing Gothic thrillers and romances, which she called her "blood and thunder tales," under the pen name A.M. Barnard.

This book's introduction explains that it was passed along by a Ms. Barnard, "a severe and rigid lady with a great deal of hair who read rabidly," to the book's living author, Grand, a former reference librarian. Ms. Barnard identified it as the "original version" of Little Women. Alcott, I think, would enjoy the joke.

'Little Women and Werewolves': Adding scary twist to classic novel 04/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 26, 2010 8:01am]
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