I am an absolute sucker for anything related to Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice,” and I have been since I read it as a freshman in high school and saw the movie around the same time. Since then, I have read spinoffs and watched miniseries’ as best as I can. I’ve also tried to finish reading all of Austen’s works. (I’m still working on that one). So when the Skimm listed “Eligible” as part of their Skimm Reads on Fridays I knew I had to read it.
“Eligible” is the modernized “Pride & Prejudice” and was written by Curtis Sittenfeld, the New York Times best-selling author responsible for “Prep” and “American Wife.” No, I haven’t read those. “Eligible” was my first Sittenfeld read, and I loved it. Of course, it wasn’t the original, but the modern retelling worked perfectly, and the essence of the characters was still intact along with Austen’s social commentary and satirical writing style.
The story takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio, with stops in NYC, L.A., San Francisco, and Houston. My mom grew up in Cincinnati and my whole family is from Ohio, so I was shouting out Skyline Chili, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Indian Hill, and more like nobody’s business. The settings were real and the landmarks were recognizable, which made it all the more enjoyable. Mr. Bingley goes by Chip, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (swoon) goes by Darcy. Kitty and Lydia take on CrossFit like bosses, Jane & Liz are as close as ever, and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are as far apart as you remember from the original.
Sittenfeld had Jane and Chip’s relationship — and by association all the others — center around Chip’s appearance on the reality show, “Eligible.” I interpreted it as Sittenfeld’s version of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” Liz is a magazine writer; Jane is a yoga instructor; Darcy is a surgeon. It’s all so contemporary. And so are the issues: Sittenfeld tackles current issues involving interracial relationships, IUI — or intrauterine insemination — which is a type of fertility treatment, LGBTQ acceptance, and a woman’s right to live the way she chooses — no marriage included unless she, well, chooses to do so.
She builds on Austen’s characters and develops their 21st century personalities and identities. She puts the issues Austen discusses in the original into the current century. First impressions can still be misleading. The satire is still there. So is the focus on class and money and marriage. Sittenfeld does a great job of maintaining the integrity of the piece. It’s one of the best adaptations I have read.
It’s not the original (nothing will be), but it’s modern and showcases that the points Austen made still apply today. It’s still a social commentary. And it’s wonderful.
Would I recommend it? Wholeheartedly. Thank you, the Skimm, for recommending it to me.
Want the book? I always buy things on Amazon. You can find “Eligible” here. And, no, I don’t get money from the sale or for the review. I just really like the book.
I love books; I love reading. But, more importantly, I love the power the written word has. Hopefully, I will post at least one of these a month. After all, it is a series. Come back the first Wednesday of the month, and I’ll have another one for you. Cheers! Happy Reading!