Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld (NetGalley Review)

Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld
Publisher: Random House (April 19, 2016)
Description from the publisher: 
From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A 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 home 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 reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 

And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen’s beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.

Right off the bat, I must admit that I'm not an Austen devotee. I also must admit that I REALLY ENJOYED this book! Prep is one of my all time favorite novels, and Sittenfeld delivered this version of Pride and Prejudice with the same witty dissection of social norms and issues (of feminism, family, class and race to name a few) through a hilarious modern update. 

If you are very loyal to Jane Austen, I'm not sure how it will go over. I've made several attempts at reading her classic novels, and they are just not to my liking. But, oh, how I love the stories! She was a master storyteller. Sense and Sensibility is one of my most favorite films, and who doesn't love Clueless?? Reading the dated dialogue puts me in a trance, but to see it performed is something else entirely. And this book is also something else entirely, and equally wonderful. I was reminded of last year's fun romp The Royal We while reading Eligible. Sure, you know how the story is going to go, but it's fun reading a different interpretation - and a sharp, whip smart one at that.

One of the things I love about Sittenfeld's writing is the uncanny, seemingly small - yet important, details she delivers of the minutiae of life. There's a tiny scene in the book where Liz asks Kitty's boyfriend where he went to high school and there's this immediate understanding/insinuation on Kitty's behalf that it's a sort of Midwestern way of discerning someone's class or background. It made me laugh out loud and also nod my head. This is something she nails in Prep, with the spot on descriptions of being an overwrought teen, and what it's like to be a mother of small children in Sisterland. The world she created is so fully realized and I could relate so much more to Elizabeth and Jane in this retelling. For some, it might be considered a sacrilege, but I am now looking into all the other novels included in The Austen Project: including Sense & Sensibility , Northanger Abbey , Emma: A Modern Retelling.  


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