Monday 18 April 2016

Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld

Pages: 528
Publisher: The Borough Press
Release Date: 21st April 2016
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Prep, The Man of My Dreams, American Wife, Sisterland

This version of the Bennett family – and Mr Darcy - is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine editor 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.

Younger 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 Bennett 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.

Eligible is witty, funny and brimming with charm. I loved every single page of it and I really didn’t want it to end.

I've never had any doubt that Pride and Prejudice is just as relevant in 2016 as it was in 1813. All five of the Bennett sisters are in a place that so works and I loved matching up little bits and the larger plots and characters from Eligible to the original. Darcy’s family home is on 1813 Pemberley Lane; Wickham’s discretion is even worse than Austen’s; Lady Katherine de Bourgh is now Kathy de Bourgh and is a famous second wave feminist and the social standing of the Bennetts in modern terms that seemed ridiculous. I did a little internal dance every time I saw a connection between the two. It gave me the most ridiculous amount of joy.

I really loved how Curtis Sittenfeld adapted the issues and scandals of Austen’s society and moulded them to ours. There are elements of Austen’s Mrs Bennett that seem relatable and understandable: if she doesn’t get her daughters married, they could all end up in poverty if Mr Bennett dies as girls weren’t allowed to inherit. But Sittenfeld’s Mrs Bennett just isn’t very nice. She's a racist, a snob, homophobic and really quite horrible to Liz and jane at points. Mr Bennett had lots of the same issues, but I did love his dry sarcasm.

I made so many notes about Eligible and how much I was loving it as I was reading, but I don’t even want to talk about most of them. I just want everyone to go out and buy this when it comes out and delight in every word. If you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice, and even if you’re not, you need this book in your life.

Eligible is one of my very favourite books of the year and I’m already desperate to re-read it. It was just such a joy to read that I dragged it out for a whole week even though I could have devoured it in one go.

Thanks to NetGalley and The Borough Press for the review copy.


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