I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen sophomore year of high school. Over Christmas break, I stayed up too late watching a black and white version on TV which led me to the book and many of Austen’s other works.
As an Austen fan, I am not one of those people who is stalwart in my appreciation and becomes offended by the modern takes. I enjoyed PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley (though I must confess to never having read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which was more so due to my lack of interest in zombie fiction), so when I heard of Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice entitled Eligible I was excited to read it.
Eligible is both an enjoyable, easy read and a clearly intelligent, well-written novel. Sittenfeld re-imagines the Bennet family in Cincinnati where the two oldest daughters – Liz and Jane, a journalist and a yoga instructor respectively – have returned to their aging childhood home from their lives in New York after their father has a heart attack. The youngest – Kitty and Lydia – still live at home and are Crossfit junkies. Mary, the uptight middle sister, is getting her umpteenth degree.
Enter into this world Chip Bingley, who has recently appeared on the reality TV show Eligible (a fictional version of the Bachelor) and his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, a neurologist at the local hospital. Life gets complicated for the Bennet sisters and their potential love interests. While I don’t want to give way any spoilers, Sittenfeld seems to bring the Bennet sisters into the modern era through the exploration of many modern day concerns — artificial insemination, hoarding, a spider infestation, a mountain of medical debt, an elopement, transgenderism and a reality TV special. And I enjoyed every minute of it!
I stayed up late and woke up early to finish because, while I knew the outcome of Liz and Darcy and Jane and Bingley from the original, Sittenfeld’s take left me curious and excited to see how she imagined it would all work out. If you are looking for a fun but smart read this is for you. If you like Austen and chick lit, you’ll enjoy this.
Footnote: I had to share this picture of my 3 1/2 year old niece, Darcy (not named in any reference to P&P) who was visiting and picked up the copy I was reading, donned her “reading” glasses and got started on chapter 3. Hopefully, one day she’ll be as excited about reading Pride and Prejudice.