November 28, 2016

Book Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

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.

Just when you think you’ve read every conceivable version of Pride and Prejudice possible, along comes a refreshing new take that makes you fall in love with Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy all over again. Curtis Sittenfeld’s take is indeed quite modern, complete with careers for the elder Bennett girls, crossfit, a reality show, and diversity in the form of trans and black characters.  Sittenfeld roughly follows the original narrative while still bringing Austen’s classic story to the 21st century realistically. Eligible is sharp, witty and charming. 

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