Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review - Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld

"When Lydia and Ham are back in Cincinnati, invite them over for dinner like normal. Or, I don't know, give them a waffle iron. They didn't get married to spite you guys. They're in love."

Mr. Bennet smiled wryly. "I suppose they are," he said. "But that's a condition that's acute, not chronic."

Full disclosure, I love Jane Austen's books in the sense that they are good stories - but at the same time, I find them very hard to read. I loved the movie version of Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 one, with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth) and I've heard the BBC version, with Colin Firth, is also quite good, although I haven't seen it. For anyone that's ever had trouble getting through an Austen novel, we now have Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld - one of my favorite authors - which is a modern retelling of the classic story.

Official synopsis:
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've been a fan of Sittenfeld's ever since Prep, which was fantastic. I'll admit I'm a little behind on her more current writings, but when I saw Eligible was available for bloggers on NetGalley, I was very excited to read it.

That excitement was not unfounded, as even though I'm familiar with Pride and Prejudice, this was a very much updated version. It was hilarious that Chip Bingley was a bachelor on Eligible (think The Bachelor) and that because of that, he was now a very eligible bachelor indeed; Mrs. Bennet, then, of course wants to set him up with Jane. His friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy (Liz Bennet says something like "who is named Fitzwilliam in this day and age?" which was quite funny), meets the rest of the Bennet sisters at the same barbecue and true to form, Liz Bennet dislikes him at first. Her dislike of him has merit - he insults her and her sisters, though I'm not sure he really meant to - and she vows to avoid him at all cost. But if you've read P&P, you know this quickly ends up not being the case.

The time period that this book takes place in is roughly 2013, based on some comments made throughout, and I loved how Sittenfeld honored the original Pride & Prejudice, yet was able to make this one her own. It was much easier to read for me than Austen's version, too, but at the same time, the writing style was classic, if that makes sense; the novel made me laugh out loud a few times too because of the author's dry wit.

I'd recommend this book to not only avid Austenites, but those who enjoy "chick lit" or modern romances.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Eligible will be for sale on April 19th, and you can pre-order your copy here.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this novel from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


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