Friday, May 27, 2016


When it comes to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it’s impossible to improve upon perfection, though countless have tried. Both in books and movies, Austen’s classic has seen a veritable smorgasbord of iterations; from Mr. Darcy’s Diary which shared Elizabeth and Darcy’s courtship through our hero’s POV, to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the title speaks for itself), to Bridget Jones’s Diary, a funny contemporary adaptation, to name only a few. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is the latest modern retelling and brings the Bennet clan across the pond to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

From the publisher: “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.”

Love and laughter meet in this likable new novel. Familiar yet new; like finding a favorite toy in a brand new package. The reader has the pleasure of reconnecting with old friends, yet their story sounds new and hip; a fact I found a little disconcerting at times. Some changes were needed (I guess), for example, in today’s day and age, there’s no such thing as a 20+ year old spinster, so writing Liz and Jane as nearing 40 made sense; though in my opinion it sort of changes the dynamic of the tale, doesn’t it? I mean the way you think, feel and love at 20 is so different from 40; at 20, you’re still bold and unfettered by old hurts and heartaches.

Most of the characters retained their charm; loved the father’s pithy sarcastic comments, Mary was annoying as ever, and Kitty and Lydia were a foul-mouthed hoot throughout, breathing a ton of life and uproarious hilarity into most of their scenes. As for Liz and Darcy, the old spark was there but seemed to have lost some of its glimmer, as their courtship lacked the sentimentality and poignancy found in the classic; it felt almost too modern and hip at times with things like “hate sex” thrown into the mix. In some regards I felt that in her attempts to drag the story into the 21st century, the author went above and beyond, throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the tale, including hot button topics like reality TV, Obamacare, racism, in vitro fertilization, and even a main character who’s transgender. We’re in the 21st century you say, well yeah sure, those things are part of our current culture, but would ONE American family confront them all?

Eligible was a fun read; clever, engaging, and fresh; but lacking the depth and heart-melting romance of the original. Not true love material, but a fun beach read nonetheless.