Eligible (The Austen Project)
By Curtis Sittenfeld
Rating 3.5/5 Stairs
Before I start this mini review, I have a confession to make. I haven’t read Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Well, maybe I’ve read part of it. I know I had to read either Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility in high school. (Quite possibly it was both books in different years. It’s been a while.) IF P&P was indeed my required reading, I only made it through half the book. Classics like that just take me forever to read. I think it’s the language – so different from our modern books. And it feels like often the books are full of extremely minute details that bog the narration down. So in the interest of meeting my class deadline, I used CliffsNotes to learn the remainder of the story. And before you get all judgy about CliffsNotes, keep in mind that 20+ years later, CliffsNotes or not, I can’t remember if I read the darn book.
Enter Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I honestly have no idea if Eligible keeps in the spirit of the Austen original or not. Set in modern day Cincinnati, Ohio, we follow the Bennet family through the eyes of second oldest daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth and her older sister Jane are the only sisters who have their act together. The middle daughter is a permanent student. The other two seem to be flakes living off of their parents. When Elizabeth realizes that her parents are actually in a lot of financial trouble, she starts doing what she can to get her sisters out of the house and save what little her parents have left. Meanwhile, she meets the infuriating Darcy, and cannot decide if she loves or loathes him.
From what I’ve read, it seems that Ms. Sittenfeld remains true Pride and Prejudice while moving it to a modern day setting. On the one hand, Ms. Sittenfeld does invoke the feeling of propriety that you feel in an Austen classic. On the other, I’m not sure if you find IVF, transgender issues, and reality TV (a la The Bachelor) in the original. By the end of the novel, there was so much controversy happening that it started to feel like a joke. How much more could be added to the story?
If you’ve read the original, I have no idea if you’ll like this modern take on the Bennet family or not. If you haven’t read it (or don’t remember it), this book is fun, but does start to border on the ridiculous by the end.