July 26, 2017 by femvestige
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a ‘modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.’ It follows the Bennett Family located in Cincinnati in a crumbling Tudor home that they can no longer afford. All of the Bennett sisters are aged up from their mid-twenties to their late thirties. Jane and Liz travel home from New York to care for their father who just had a heart attack, and assist their mother in a high society luncheon. While there, Mrs. Bennett decides to use the opportunity to match make her unmarried older daughters with potential suitors. One of the most eligible bachelors in Cincinnati is Chip Bingley who just returned from a TV show called ‘Eligible’ where he ended up not choosing a woman from the show to marry because they didn’t ‘click.’
The Bennett sisters attend a BBQ where Chip Bingley is attending and he and Jane hit it off right away. Chip’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy is snobbish and immediately ruffles Liz’s feathers. And so begins the modernized telling of a classic story.
A Broader Picture:
Jane is a 39-year-old yoga instructor desperate to have a child and has been receiving fertility treatments and intro-cytoplasmic sperm injections from donors. So far she has been unsuccessful. She is charming, quiet, very caring, and very nice.
Liz is a 37(8) year-old who writes articles for a women’s magazine called Mascara. Her pieces are more about empowering women, however her family gives her a lot of flack for writing for a magazine that does cater a lot to ‘how to get the perfect perm.’ She is very nosy, presumptuous, and in love with a man for over 20 years named Jasper Wick who is married and won’t divorce his wife for her. Instead of seeming smart and sassy with Mr. Darcy, she is more or less petty.
Mary is quiet, illusive, extremely smart and pursuing another doctorate degree. She lives at home and has a ‘I am above everyone else’ attitude. There was real potential for her to have some character depth, but in the end she is asexual and overall snobby about her life and family members.
Kitty’s primary function is to be really good at painting nails, following Lydia around and doing everything she does (crossfit, paleo diets, etc.). She ends up dating a black man 10 years older than her, and her family is racist.
Lydia is just plain mean, and her only redeeming quality is she falls in love and marries her crossfit instructor who is a transexual – her family is transphobic.
Things I liked:
I really enjoyed identifying characters or events from the original story in a modern context. How Jane got sick makes sense in the modern context, and Darcy being an intelligent and arrogant brain surgeon works. I enjoyed the casual sex (though ‘hate sex’ is a term I have not encountered myself). Changing the cousin into an adopted cousin makes it less creepy and fits with a modern times. I also liked the concept of the TV show Eligible. It works with referring to chip as a bachelor and everyone seeking his affections when he returns.
Things I didn’t like:
I felt the family was exaggerated into a satirical version of the original family – I don’t remember them being quite as obnoxious, and it felt ludicrous in the modern context – who is actually really like that today? I also felt the racism and transphobia were not handled well – they are modern issues but the way the author explored them within this story did not assist or enlighten this issues and only took away from the story instead of enriching it.
Overall, I felt this was an enjoyable albeit satirical portrayal of the original classic. I laughed and was eager to see how it would end. I would recommend it, however I wouldn’t expect anything extraordinary. It’s not an Austen work.
Rating out of 5: ✮✮✮✮
Dates Read: 6/28/17 – 7/1/17
Character Development: B
Best Feature: Enjoyable and light hearted
Worst Feature: Terrible characters and abysmal treatment of modern issues such as racism and transphobia