Genre: Romance, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “From the ‘wickedly entertaining’ Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century. 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 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 revels himself to Liz to be much less charming… And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.”
Review: I love a good Jane Austen retelling as much as the next person (consider my favorable review of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters as evidence), but Eligible ended up being too silly for my liking. I was first inspired to give Sittenfeld’s novel a try when I saw it fly off shelves at the bookstore I worked in throughout Christmas 2015. While there are things that I really liked about Eligible, including the overall formatting (Sittenfeld has mastered the art of the short chapter) and creativity when it came to putting a more modern spin on Austen’s classic, I couldn’t get on board with the sheer ridiculousness of the Bennet family. All of the characters are mere caricatures of their former selves and the droll drama of their lives ended up being too much for me. I also didn’t feel like Eligible handled certain topics, including race and transgender identity, in a very respectful way. The book also lost any charm it had accumulated with the stunt that was pulled in the final chapters. I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice to say that it made the novel feel very cheap and, once again, silly. All in all, Eligible was a painless but unremarkable read; I would recommend that readers looking for an Austen fix either stick to the classic or give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith a try.