"Eligible" by Curtis Sittenfeld
What would the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice be like if they lived in the twenty-first century? In this imagining, so much is different and yet so much has stayed the same. To start with, the Bennet family are from Cincinnati in this version. Liz is a magazine writer living in New York City, as is yoga instructor Jane. Kitty and Lydia are focused less on careers and more on CrossFit. Mary is in the process of getting her third Master’s degree online and barely leaves the house except for a mysterious outing every Tuesday. But as some things simply don't change as Mrs. Bennet is focused solely on marrying off her daughters, especially Jane who is quickly approaching forty.
And who has Mrs. Bennet set her eyes on for Jane? That would be Chip Bingley, the handsome doctor and recent star of the reality dating show "Eligible." When Mrs. Bennet wrangles an invitation to a Fourth of July barbecue, Jane and Chip hit it off. But Liz is less than impressed with Chip’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, a neurosurgeon from California who has no problems keeping his thoughts on Cincinnati and the Bennet family to himself.
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, is a fun and fresh retelling of Jane Austen’s classic masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. Just as Austen tackled the social issues of her time, this book takes a look at gender, race, class, family, and marriage in a very entertaining way.
This is an absolutely charming and enjoyable novel. I breezed through the book, which at over 500 pages long doesn’t seem like it would be an easy feat, because I was having so much fun and did not want to put it down.
I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time only a few yeas ago and while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t as charmed by it as many people are. I can see why people love it and how it would be such an important book of its time though it just wasn’t the same experience for me. However, this modern re-telling - this is my cup of tea. The Bennet family are from Cincinnati, the daughters are into things like yoga and CrossFit, and Mr. Bingley has starred on a reality dating show. And Darcy, well he’s the same no matter where is living or what time period he lives in.
There is so much going on in this book and it is all so much fun. I really appreciated how it wasn’t so much of just picking up the Bennet family and placing them in a new time period while keeping the same old problems. Sittenfeld takes the big issues of today and sees how the Bennet’s would react to it. This book has characters who are people of colour and who are transgender and it doesn’t shy away from examining how people in the Bennet’s social circle would treat them. The Bennet sisters are recognizable and relatable.
I will definitely be recommending this book to many people (I actually have already been recommending it at work even though it isn’t released until the 19th of April.) I think many classic books deserve modern re-tellings and this one is leading the way. This is a great summer book and one that you will be seeing everywhere so pick it up.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.