Book Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Modern retellings of fairytale classics have been popping up everywhere and from what I can tell, readers are loving them! So when I heard about Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, I got really excited.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld introduces the familiar Bennett family, but with modern differences. I will say that there were things I really disliked, but others that I really liked. I applaud Ms. Sittenfeld for tackling such a project and I think she executed it as best as possible.

The Writing

I don’t know if there is a lot I can talk about Sittenfeld’s writing other than that it was
good. The first book of hers that I’ve read, so I don’t have anything to compare it to in order to see if stacks up against her other books.

The Characters

Okay, this is where I had a few issues. Modern versions of some of the characters were just terrible.

eligibleThe modern version of Mrs. Bennet comes off as an inconsiderate, racist, and vain woman who only cares what others think in Cleveland society.

Mr. Bennet is really someone I saw just floating around the edges. His marriage has fallen on hard times and he seems to not really care about much.

Mary is kind of the same, though she still comes off as an introvert/reserved type that doesn’t care about the things her sisters or mother cares about. This modern version seems stronger than her original.

Kitty and Lydia are still ridiculous in that they are completely inappropriate with what they talk about and do in front of any and everyone. They’re in their early to mid twenties and still not quite mature.

Jane and Elizabeth I think are also similar to their original. It was a little difficult to imagine them as older in their thirties. But that makes more sense that marriage and kids is at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to the two of them.

Jasper Wick plays the Mr. Wickham of this modern version. I simply found him annoying and not worth Liz’s time.

Chip Bingley was a little weird in this version, but was essentially the same.

Fitzwilliam Darcy was probably also close to his original.

The Plot

Oh dear lord. The plot. A coworker of mine read this before me and her one sentence confusion of this novel was ‘that it was so modern it was cliche’. And I agree.

There were some points that I thought worked. Generally all the jobs given to the characters. However, the whole idea, in a modern setting, for Mrs. Bennet to only care about what others think and marrying off her daughters, especially her two older ones, just came off annoying and ridiculous.

The reasons for the wrong first impression between Darcy and Liz were well executed, though Liz was written to hang on to that impression for far longer than Darcy and she let it cloud her judgement. Which of course happened in the original as well, but I got the feeling that maybe Darcy didn’t hold onto the impression at all.

And the whole running off and getting married thing that Lydia did? Blown out of proportion by Mrs. Bennet, the only one who cares that Lydia eloped with Hamilton ‘Ham’ who not only is black, but transgender. Everyone else takes it in stride and just cares that Lydia is happy. Except for Mrs. Bennet. And maybe Mr. Bennet if I remember correctly. But this plot point was just wholly ridiculous in a modern setting.

Same goes for the reason why Jasper Wick ends up out of the running with Liz (and really she wasted how much time waiting around for him?!) and why he and Darcy hate each other was kind of random. Wick is deemed immature, a liar, possibly racist, and really just not a considerate person. Which mostly runs parallel with the original I suppose.

Taking away the fact that this runs true tot he original story in a modern setting, there were just too many plot points that I deemed unnecessary to the story. Taking the original into consideration, I can understand that the Sittenfeld worked with what she had in our modern times.

Otherwise, the evolution of the characters and different relationship arcs were well developed and stayed true to the original for a modern setting. I really enjoyed Darcy and Liz’s evolving relationship the most because it felt the most real and was the most relatable in the modern setting.

What I Disliked

Overall, I really think that Pride & Prejudice in its entirety should stay in the era it was written for. This book just ended up being way too modern to the point that some things came off ridiculous and unnecessary. I have read that some read it like a parody, but I think that might be going a little too far?

However, it was fun to read about the relationship parts in the modern setting. Everything else I could have done away with.

So tell me, have you had the chance to read this yet? What did you think? Good, bad, or in between?

Happy Reading!

XO Nicole

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