Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield

It's no secret that I love Jane Austen.  I've read all of her books, continuations of her books and modern-day retellings of her stories.  Nothing that I have read has even come close to touching the originals.  However, in the case of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, I feel like someone has captured the spirit of Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  This book is not perfect, and has it's downfalls, which I will highlight in a moment.  I think the thing that makes this book the best modern-day retelling, is that Ms. Sittenfeld doesn't try to copy the storyline exactly, but uses a little creative license to reimagine the original.
While the original Jane and Lizzie Bennet were around twenty years old, in this version they are nearing forty.  They left their home in Cincinnati, several years before, and now they both live in New York City, two basically independent women.  When they receive news that their father has had a heart attack, they both make the trip home to take care of him.  Lizzie Bennett finds that her father's money affairs are in shambles, her mother is an obsessive shopper, her sisters are totally self-absorbed and the family estate is in disrepair.  Lizzie sets out to help her father get well, and try to fix all the other family issue along the way.  Her mother's scheme to get her and Jane married off is in full swing now that they are back in her city again.  She arranges for them to meet Dr. Chip Bingley, believing that he will fall in love with one of them, and she may finally see one of her daughters happily married.  But Jane has a secret that may ruin everything with Chip before their relationship even gets off the ground.  And then of course there is Lizzie and Darcy.  After some bad first impressions, they begin to admit their feelings, but some miscommunications and misunderstandings bring things to a halt.  Throw in Lydia and her relationship with an "inappropriate" person, and you've got yourself a modern-day Pride and Prejudice.
I think that Eligible is probably pretty close to what Jane Austen would have written if she had lived in the present times, however, I think some of the scenes in this book would have the Austen of that day rolling in her grave.  In her day men and women barley touched one another, or even spent time alone in each other's presence, so I can only imagine how she'd feel about Lizzie and Darcy's relationship.  Women barely even acknowledged when they were pregnant, so Jane's situation would most likely have shocked her.  Lydia's running away with the dashing Mr. Wickham was the worst thing she could think of to destroy the Bennett family's reputation, so the currents Lydia's situation would be totally beyond her imagination. 
The basic story line in this book is really good, and the characters are well-written.  However, because of some of the situations and language used, it's not a book that I recommend as reading for Christians.  I don't really know what I expected, but I found this to be very disappointing.  Curtis Sittenfeld is obviously a great writer with a lot of talent, but her books aren't really for me.

Happy Reading!

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own and a favorable review was not required. 

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