Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Cover image for Eligible : a novel
by Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House, 492 pages, 2016, General Fiction

Returning with her sister, Jane, to their Ohio hometown when their father falls ill, New York magazine editor Lizzy Bennett confronts her younger sisters' football fangirl antics, a creepy cousin's unwanted attentions, and the infuriating standoffish manners of a handsome neurosurgeon.

Did you hear that? That’s the sound of a few of my co-workers yelling at me for writing this review. Usually when I know someone else in the library will likely read and review the same book, I’ll try to review something else. But I need to talk about this book with people! Please tell me what to think about it! I mean you, too, co-workers!

This book is the latest in a project to have different authors update Jane Austen novels, and it’s the most successful adaptation for me so far. Sittenfeld does something most Austen-inspired novelists don’t; she acknowledges Austen’s sharp wit. Liz and her family are all sarcastic and flippant, just as they are in Austen’s original novel (Pride and Prejudice). Sittenfeld also really updates the novel, filling it chock-full of contemporary issues ripped from the headlines.

Because the novel is so updated, I’m not sure it will appeal to everyone. In fact, it took me a bit to warm up to the novel. But the more I think about it, the more I like it because Sittenfeld did such a good job of staying true to the spirit of the original while also making it modern. I’d love to hear what others think of this.



Liz said...

This book is entertaining enough but overall the writing itself is dismal and the claim to be a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice is a disgrace to Jane Austen. My guess is this book was primarily written for a female fan base of Pride and Prejudice junkies and for those kinds of readers this book would disappoint severely. Not only is this modern displacement of characters exaggerated, but done so in an almost insulting way to the original characters. For example-Jane and Liz are grossly over-aged as 40 and 38 year old women, respectively. (In the original they are 22 and 20). Everything is pushed to the utmost oddity and does not accurately reflect the general modern world (foul language, sex and sexuality, lack of morals and religion, reality tv, workout fads, money issues, gross generalization about life in different areas of the US, how dating works, etc). Perhaps Sittenfeld saw Austen’s works as this kind of extreme? If so, he probably needed to do a bit more historical research.

Most successful romance novels are written by women, for women and the way this novel is written painfully falls flat in capturing the magic of banter, flirting, and falling for someone; the romances progress too quick physically and in rather choppy ways, with certain details that only a (somewhat sexist) man would write. The choppiness is amplified with way too many little chapters consisting of a few pages. Sittenfeld does capture the wit and various personalities within some of the dialogue but the way the plot progresses lacks the wide, yet detailed scope of Austen’s narratives. I did appreciate how Liz is a feminist and a writer for an intelligent magazine, however it's named Mascara. How is is that an equivalent title to a Vanity Fair type publication?! Some of Liz’s other characterizations, and most especially her relationship with Darcy, does not match how I would re-imagine the story in modern day. I suspect I am not the only P&P fan who feels protective and defensive of the original, so unfortunately it’s hard to meet high expectations in a modern retelling.


Liz said...

*** I just found out that Curtis Sittenfeld is in fact a female author! In my opinion, this revelation makes the writing all that much more confusing for the plot/genre with sexist undertones mixed with seemingly overt feminist characters.