Eligible Book Cover
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House
April 2016
The Austen Project (Book 4/4)
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 home to Cincinnati and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray... Kitty and Lydia are too busy with CrossFit and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, is on her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters. Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome doctor who appeared on the reality TV dating show Eligible. Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to be less than charming... And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
Adapted from: GoodReads

An absolute gem of a read; this contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice presents the reader with thoroughly satisfying familiar but modernized characters, a pleasant narrative and explicit expressions of feminism which Austen herself would have appreciated!

Book Breakdown

From the very start of the book it’s obvious that Elizabeth C. Sittenfeld understands that the core of the story of Pride and Prejudice lies in the characters; her first couple chapters are dedicated to introducing the main characters, each member of the Bennett family and reconciling what the reader knows of the classic character with modern versions of them. Not only that but she immediately showcases their flaws too; as a reader I felt I knew this family as well as my own! After the initial introduction, Sittenfeld takes time to better explain Liz and Jane’s particular situations, setting the stage for the entrance of the bachelors! Sweet, emotional, conflicted Bingley, and severe, certain Darcy – two more well portrayed persona.

Eligible Quote

The story is divided up into three parts. Part 1 up until Liz reads Darcy’s letter, Part 2 Liz’s pride leads her to assume the worst, and Part 3 the revealing of everything, plus two addendum-type epilogues.

The writing is nothing special, but it flows well and is easy to read. Liz’s narrative voice is a good blend of witty and impulsive, take-charge realist, and secret romantic. Like, when contemplating her situation with Jasper, Liz, at first, finds herself more willing to accept the situation because of its imperfections, as these annoyances detract from the fairytale-like-ending that she knows is simply too-good-to-be-true.

In my Opinion

Sittenfeld’s principal characters are perfection. I loved every one of them and felt that they played their roles beautifully. The few updates to characters that were undertaken were mostly in secondary characters, but are nonetheless, noteworthy; SPOILER: Lady Catherine de Bourgh was more like a wise fairy-godmother than a cruel old maid decided upon ruining Liz. Wickham was actually divided into two characters, which I found to be an interesting choice. Jasper played the role of the deceitful Wickham whereas Ham played a charming Wickham. On the one hand this really simplified his character, but I can see how the division was convenient for the plot. Cousin Willie (Mr. Collins) is not nearly as insufferable in this version as in the original. Overall it seems Sittenfeld has taken some of the edge off the secondary characters and opted for a milder, more pleasant version of them.

In terms of the modernization aspect I really liked that SPOILER: Darcy and Liz became enemies-with-benefits before realizing their feelings for each other; it fits the time well. Plus the Liz/Darcy banter is so good and builds their sexual tension admirably! I also adored that Liz ended up proposing to Darcy the second time around – she is empowered by Lady Catherine to go after what she wants!

Also, I ADORED the reprise with Mary in the ultimate chapter; SPOILER: I think she is the most misunderstood character and I loved that she got the chance to not explain herself, because she owes no one any sort of explanation, but rather show that she is happy with her life.

So what didn’t I like? The text speak was really over-done; no one actually texts like that, it was painful to read. The chapters felt too small at times, I mean really, 181 chapters in a 500-page book is excessive!

Character-wise I thought it was pretty harsh how Bingley was painted as a disappointment to a lot of people (his parents, his sister, even himself, in a way) and I didn’t feel like the issue of Georgiana’s anorexia was adequately addressed.

What I Learned

For me, part of the charm of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has always been the setting, the regency period fashion, the manners, the entertainment factor of gossip at a time when socializing happened only in-person. But, this book proved to me that the story of Pride and Prejudice, of bad first impressions and unexpected feelings, is classic and timeless. To paraphrase a wise friend of mine, it is quite simply always relevant. ;)

What did you think of Eligible? Can you recommend other Pride and Prejudice retellings that are worth a read?? Share your thoughts in the comments!