Sunday, 12 June 2016

Eligible

 
Even if her mother couldn’t recognise it, the shorts she had on were extremely stylish, as were her sleeveless white blouse and straw sandals. Curtis Sittenfeld
 
Despite my reservations about Austen prequels, sequels and re-imaginings I have to say I quite enjoyed Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible. Sittenfeld has re-worked Pride and Prejudice so that Mrs Bennet is a social climbing shopaholic, Jane a yoga teacher, Liz a journalist, Kitty and Lydia are glamourous vain, crude and addicted to CrossFit and pseudo-intellectual Mary is as unappealing as in the original.

If you know Pride and Prejudice it’s fun to spot the similarities and differences. The novel begins with Chip(!) Bingley, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, arriving in the neighbourhood having reluctantly appeared on a reality show called Eligible to find the perfect partner. Mrs Bennet, of course, is keen for him to meet her daughters as ‘she wouldn’t mind a doctor in the family.’ At a barbecue, Liz meets the aloof Fitzwilliam Darcy a neurosurgeon and overhears him saying that he is ‘not surprised’ she is single as in this town as ‘they grade their women on a curve.’ Rather than laugh as his ungallant behaviour as Lizzy does in the original novel our heroine immediately challenges him.

I think the problem with the novel is that there is no spark between Liz and Darcy. Even after they begin a sexual relationship while superficially hating each other there is not the wit and humour of the original novel. What does work well is the Wickham character, the affection between Jane and Liz and the awfulness of the two younger sisters.

OK it’s not Jane Austen, but it kept me turning the pages. Have you read it?
 

9 comments:

Audrey said...

Not yet...I wasn't going to, because the other books in this series were disappointing ... but I don't think I can resist. I'm glad you enjoyed it, as that gives me hope. :)

Anbolyn said...

I did read it and I did like it. I thought it was funny and clever. I think the aspect that worked the best for me was the interaction and relationship between the sisters. That was more interesting to me then the romantic storylines!

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JoAnn said...

I haven't read it and had pretty much decided not to, but may reconsider now...

Nadia A said...

I want to read this one, it sounds like fun. I actually enjoy reading the Austen-ish books that get written. Of course, nothing beats the original. I recently read Love & Freindship and loved it. I'm about to start Lady Susan, but am reconsidering and thinking of starting Eligible instead. Great post! Thanks :)

julie snyder said...

I have read it and enjoyed it. Thought the way Sitterfield adapted the story to modern times was very clever. Of course, no one can top the original, but she comes close.

Sunday Taylor said...

I haven't read it because I had read some negative reviews and talked to a friend who didn't enjoy it. But I can see how it would be fun to find the similarities between the two books. Thanks for your review!

Cathy Daniel said...

No, I haven't read it and am fiercely protective of the original, but it sounds like a bit of a laugh really, so I may give it a whirl! thanks for sharing, as ever! xCathy

Vintage Reading said...

Audrey, yes, hate to say that I was disappointed with Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler - and I usually love Anne Tyler.

Anbolyn, yes the sisters were portrayed brilliantly - particularly the bond between Jane and Elizabeth.

JoAnn, if you are an Austen purist you may not like it ... but it's fun!

Nadia, I loved Lady Susan. My favourite of her shorter works and the only mature Austen heroine!

Sunday, it's enjoyable but not Austen!

Cathy, yes, nothing will beat the original.