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Published September 1st 2016
A contemporary update for a Jane Austen classic
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is part of the Austen Project series which pairs contemporary authors with Jane Austen novels. Using the original work as their base each contemporary author is asked to write their own take on their given Austen novel.
Eligible is a modern day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Sittenfeld has set her novel in 2013 in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. It is here we meet The Bennett family, Mr and Mrs Bennett and their daughters Jane, Liz, Mary, Kitty and Lydia.
While the characters retain their original natures from Pride and Prejudice, they are given modern day lives, habits and problems by Sittenfeld. Thus kind and sweet-natured Jane is a single, yoga instructor living in New York who has turned to modern medicine to fulfil her dream of becoming a mother. Witty and responsible Liz is a writer living in New York who finds herself in a relationship with a married man. Middle sister Mary is a professional student and feminist and the youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia remain immature and silly and are both cross-fit and paleo diet enthusiasts. The three younger sisters all still live at home with Mr and Mrs Bennett in Cincinnati.
In the opening chapter we learn that Mr Bennett is recuperating from recent heart surgery and Jane and Liz have come home to help look after him.
None of the sisters are married, much to the lament of Mrs Bennett, however the arrival in town of Chip Bingley, who is both a doctor and star of reality TV show "Eligible", brings new hope to the matriarch of this family.
While the story and characters are so familiar to us, the contemporary updates infuse it with humour and energy, making it an extremely enjoyable read.
To me reading this book was like being reunited with old friends you haven't seen for a while and discovering what they are up to now. For fans of Austen, the characters are so familiar yet Sittenfeld brings to the story a fun and entertaining modern update where the Bennetts are a bickering and only semi-functioning family.
At over 500 pages (181 chapters) this book is lengthy, but it is easy to read and had me hooked right from the beginning. Despite its length I didn't want it to end. It is one of those books that you just can't put down as you wait anxiously to discover the answers to all of your questions:
Will Liz and Darcy overcome their dislike of each other?
Will Jane and Chip walk down the aisle?
What is the mystery surrounding Liz's friend and lover, Jasper Wick?
Is Mary a lesbian?
Will Kitty and Lydia ever grow up and move out of home?
Can Mrs Bennett overcome her shopping addiction?
Don't let a few bad reviews of this book put you off. For me it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and a fun way to imagine the Bennett family in the 21st century.
Eligible is available to order from your local bookstore.