#BookReview: Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible Curtis Sittinfield

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.

From HarperFiction via Netgalley in exchange for a review.

I’ve read Sittenfeld books before, most noticeably her story Sisterland, so when this book came on offer, I jumped at the chance….I love Pride and Prejudice, I’ve read variants before, I’ve read Sittenfeld before, what can go wrong?!

Well, the basic premise of P&P remains the same, though this is very much a modern retelling with modern situations. The “girls” are much older (Jane and Liz are nearing 40, but still, the biological clocks are ticking very loudly), there’s reality TV, IVF, pre-marital sex, casual “hate” sex, adultery, debts and swearing on all sides.  There’s also plenty of other topics covered. It’s probably best not to think of this as a “sequel” or “retelling”, more an “inspired by” – the purists are certainly going to be offended!

There are plenty of nods to the original, but with modern updates, many of which put things from the original in context. Darcy’s income in the original is £10,000 a year, which sounds stupid now, but when I first read P&P, it was put in context at £6million.  In this book, the house alone (thanks to some prudent work by Liz on the internet) is valued at over $55 million, and that doesn’t take into account Darcy’s salary as a Brain Surgeon.

All the major plot points are there: Katherine De Burgh; the dreaded cousin Willie who ends up with BFF Charlotte; the mad mother (with a shopping fetish); the father rapidly running out of money, and refusing to confront the issue; the elopement (yes, it happens and there is a spin).

So: A bold take on a classic, which I think Sittenfeld manages to pull off. It’s modern enough that people who haven’t read the original won’t be put off (did it need some one from the colonies – hahahahahahha  – to cut through all the Regency Manners?). whilst having enough nods to and structure from the original to hopefully placate all but the hardcore obsessives.

About this author

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of Eligible (out now!) as well as the bestselling novels Sisterland, American Wife, Curtis SittenfeldPrep, and The Man of My Dreams, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Curtis’s writing has appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair,Time, Slate, Glamour, and on public radio’s This American Life. A graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently lives in St. Louis, MO.

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