Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice
by Curtis Sittenfeld
Synopsis: In this modern version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Liz and Jane Bennet live in New York City; Liz writes for a magazine and Jane instructs yoga. Their father has a health scare and they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help during his recovery. Upon arrival, Liz and Jane find that the beautiful Tudor they grew up in, and their family, has become a crumbling hot mess.
The youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too consumed with their CrossFit workouts and diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle child, is working on yet another master's degree, and she never leaves her room, save for the Tuesday-night outings that she doesn't discuss with anyone.
Mrs. Bennet, the matriarch, has one goal: marry off the girls, especially Jane who is so very close to 40.
Similar to Prejudice, we meet Dr. Chip Bingley, a cheerful and handsome ER doctor who is new to Cincinnati, and has gained popularity after appearing on a reality TV show called Eligible. After meeting Jane at a summer time barbecue, Bingley develops interest in her very quickly. Bingley brings his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy to the barbecue, and his standoffish demeanor proves him to be much less charming in Liz's opinion... but first impressions are almost always entirely wrong.
**BEWARE OF THE SPOILERS!**
Elements of Romance:
Characterization - Characters are easily identifiable (Saricks, pg. 133). At the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Chip Bingley, young and attractive ER doctor who had a chance at love on a TV show. His friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy is described as tall, dark, handsome, and standoffish. Jane and Liz Bennet, the eldest sisters, are both independent, beautiful, they exercise, keep a routine, and take the roles of mother for the younger girls. Mary, the middle sister, is more homely, keeps to herself, and instead of being influenced by the whims of the world, she throws herself into education. Kitty and Lydia, the youngest two siblings, are very beautiful, fit and toned, and are constantly on their phones.
Storyline - The storyline shows a misunderstanding between our Liz and Darcy. Like the classic Pride & Prejudice story, Liz and Darcy start off at odds, with Darcy commenting on how provincial living in Cincinnati is and Liz being offended when Darcy says there are no women worth his time in the town besides Liz's sister Jane, who is already taken with Chip. In the end, there is a "satisfactory resolution of their romantic relationship" (Saricks, pg. 133). Both Liz and Darcy realize how stubborn they both are and that they are actually more alike than they thought.
Details - The Bennet house is often mentioned through out the story as a Tudor style home. The Bennets live in a "sprawling eight-bedroom Tudor in Cincinatti's Hyde Park neighborhood" (Sittenfeld, pg. 13). This is reminiscent of the original story of the Bennets, who had a multi bedroom house, along with a cook, a maid, and people to tend to the exterior of the estate. This attention to detail is also shown when describing the lifestyle of Kitty and Lydia. "...Kitty and Lydia had embraced CrossFit, the intense strength and conditioning regimen that involved weight lifting, kettle bells, battle ropes, obscure acronyms, the eschewal of most foods other than meat..." (Sittenfeld, pg. 20). Another detail is the emphasis put on Chip Bingley's past shot at love on a reality TV show called Eligible. Chip took the women to gamble in Las Vegas and to taste wine in Napa Valley vineyards. On the finale episode, Chip had to pick between the final two women (very similar to the Bachelor/Bachelorette) and ended up breaking down on screen and picking neither.
Pace - Eligible is very fast paced, engaging the reader instantly. There are 113 chapters, divided into 3 parts in the novel. Each chapter only consists of one to eight pages maximum, which makes this story a literal page turner! This encourages the reader to continue reading, when one chapter is only one page with a short paragraph.
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Saricks, J.G. (2009). The readers' advisory guide to genre fiction: Second edition. Chicago: ALA.
Sittenfeld, C. (2016). Eligible. New York: Random House.