Book Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld


This re-telling of the Pride and Prejudice story has been a best seller and I’ve seen great reviews of it in magazines – but the friend who passed it on to me, whom I usually have very similar reading tastes to, had given up after a few chapters as she couldn’t get into it – so I have to say I was a little wary starting it.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“The Bennet sisters have been summoned from New York City.

Liz and Jane are good daughters. They’ve come home to suburban Cincinnati to get their mother to stop feeding their father steak as he recovers from heart surgery, to tidy up the crumbling Tudor-style family home, and to wrench their three sisters from their various states of arrested development.

Once they are under the same roof, old patterns return fast. Soon enough they are being berated for their single status, their only respite the early morning runs they escape on together. For two successful women in their late thirties, it really is too much to bear. That is, until the Lucas family’s BBQ throws them in the way of some eligible single men . . .

Chip Bingley is not only a charming doctor, he’s a reality TV star too. But Chip’s friend, haughty neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, can barely stomach Cincinnati or its inhabitants. Jane is entranced by Chip; Liz, sceptical of Darcy. As Liz is consumed by her father’s mounting medical bills, her wayward sisters and Cousin Willie trying to stick his tongue down her throat, it isn’t only the local chilli that will leave a bad aftertaste.

But where there are hearts that beat and mothers that push, the mysterious course of love will resolve itself in the most entertaining and unlikely of ways. And from the hand of Curtis Sittenfeld, Pride & Prejudice is catapulted into our modern world singing out with hilarity and truth.”

Now I read P&P many years ago at school (and suspect I’ve watched a film version or 2 at some point) but the storyline didn’t really stick in my head at all – so whilst the names were familiar (and clearly Fitzwilliam Darcy was Colin Firth) I wasn’t sure on the storyline.  And to that end, I’m not sure how much of the story is true to Jane Austen and how much is purely Curtis Sittenfeld.  Some of it clearly is from the original – the 5 sisters, Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy; and some of it may well me – Mr Bennet being ill?  The family house falling to rack and ruin?  Maybe even the geeky cousin trying it on with Liz? But some of it I am sure is totally 21st century reinvention – reality TV, IVF procedures, LGBT issues.

So all in all I was pretty much reading it as a standalone book and not as a rewrite of a classic.

Having said that – I really enjoyed it.  It did start out a bit slow – but quickly gained pace, and really kept me intrigued.  The characters of all 5 sisters were very different – and mostly you see things from Liz’s point of view – and she was definitely my favourite (and not just because we share the same first name!)  Mr and Mrs Bennet are almost cartoonish in their awfulness at times – but that rings a bell from the original.

I was actually quite disappointed to finish it as I’d enjoyed it so much.  I also think I’ll have to read the original Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice again soon.



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