Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Like many people, I am a big fan of Jane Austen’s novels and have enjoyed reading the current series of modern re-interpretations of her completed novels as part of The Austen Project. Pride & Prejudice was always going to be the most eagerly awaited and American author Curtis Sittenfeld has taken on task of bringing the Bennet sisters into the 21st century. Some Austen fans throw their hands up in horror at any re-tellings, prequels, sequels or any adaptations (I must admit Pride & Prejudice & Zombies was a step too far for me!) but I really enjoy the different takes on the familiar stories and well known characters. I do wonder why this book was renamed though when the other books so far have retained the original titles?

I  probably don’t really need to summarise the storyline for this book as most people are familiar with Pride & Prejudice whether from reading the book or the various film or tv adaptations. There is a summary of the book below my review if you do need one. I read this with pictures of actors mostly from the more recent 2005 film in my head: Keira Knightley as Liz Bennet, a magazine journalist despairing of her air-head sisters, Brenda Blethyn as Mrs Bennet desperate as ever to see her girls married well, but with Colin Firth (always Colin Firth!) as Mr Darcy, now a top neurosurgeon. I really enjoyed that Curtis Sittenfeld had kept the essence of the familiar characters whilst bringing them right up to date. Mr Bennet was as dryly humorous as ever, Caroline Bingley just as bitchy, Lydia and Kitty, having no bonnets or ribbons to fuss over, obsess about reality tv and the Crossfit fitness regime instead.

The beauty of Eligible for me was that I knew exactly where the story was going and exactly what to expect from the characters. There were one or two variations but on the whole the plot is the same. Curtis Sittenfeld has managed to write evoking the style of Jane Austen while seamlessly incorporating the modern world of yoga, food fads, medical issues, feminism, texting, social media and there was definitely a lot more sex than in the original! It was familiar yet had the feel of  fresh new story at the same time. I think Jane Austen would turn in her grave at the shenanigans of the young ladies though!

Wonderfully witty, sharply observed, very funny and true in spirit to the original, Eligible was a fantastic read. Whether you know Pride & Prejudice inside out or whether it’s completely new, I think this book will please most readers and everyone will get something out of it. Storytelling at its best, but then Curtis Sittenfeld did have a superb original story to work with.

My thanks to publishers Harper Collins for allowing me to read a review copy via Netgalley. Eligible will be published on Thursday April 21st in hardback and ebook formats with the paperback to follow in 2017. You can order a copy here: Eligible

From the back of the book

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.

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