From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen’s beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.
I have been a devoted fan of Jane Austen since my teen years and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels. I also enjoy reading books based on her novels though some are definitely better than others. Eligible appealed to me because I liked the idea of a modern day Pride and Prejudice and was curious to see how Sittenfeld would adapt the story. In some ways I was pleased but in others I was very disappointed.
Eligible is set in Cincinnati, Ohio, the home of the Bennets' once glorious Tudor home that has fallen into disrepair. The main character Liz and her sister Jane are home from New York in the wake of their dad's heart attack where they now shoulder the burden of taking care of him and everyone else. Liz's younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are unemployed and spoiled fitness fanatics with coarse manners. Mrs. Bennet is a shopaholic socialite and Mary is a dull intellectual who continually racks up degrees without getting a job. Mr. Bennet like the original character is bad with finances and not concerned at all with all the problems around him.
The part of the novel that disappointed me most was the romance between Liz and Darcy. I felt like it was poorly developed and lacked the spark and sizzle of the hero and heroine's relationship in Pride and Prejudice. Jane and Chip's romance had some issues and felt a little rushed but I suppose that echoes the original in a way. I also struggled to relate to Liz and didn't like her as much as I'd hoped compared to Elizabeth Bennet.
What I did like was the way the story was updated with some contemporary twists, including some that I definitely didn't expect. The novel is entertaining as it pokes fun at reality TV dating shows and the foibles of the Bennet clan. I think readers who like the original novel but don't mind the idea of a modern take on the story might enjoy Eligible while purists and Austen devotees should probably consider skipping it or perhaps check it out from the library.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss