From the "wickedly entertaining" (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times best-selling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the 21st century.
This version of the Bennet family - and Mr. Darcy - is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late 30s who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help - and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling, and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master's degree and barely leaves her room except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won't discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane's 40th birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip's friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming....
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen's beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.
©2016 Curtis Sittenfeld (P)2016 Random House Audio
"Narrator Cassandra Campbell's lively narration complements Sittenfeld's sharply observed and witty updates. She voices Darcy, now an accomplished, if snobby, neurosurgeon, in a dry and understated style, contrasting him beautifully with the often exasperated and indignant Liz, a magazine writer. Especially notable is Campbell's handling of party scenes, in which the five Bennet sisters and assorted other characters interact in rapid-fire dialogue. To Campbell's credit, each character remains clearly distinguishable through subtle vocal variations. Sittenfeld's retelling is smart and funny, and Campbell's performance highlights the novel's many strengths." (AudioFile)
If you're someone who loves the Bennett girls, mainly Elizabeth and Jane, don't read this book. The portrayal is not one that is flattering to either. But the book was okay. I read the entire thing, and even though I know the story of Liz and Darcy backwards and forwards, I wanted to know what happened.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
Updates, sequels, and revisions of "Pride and Prejudice" and other Jane Austen's works are almost never successful. Her tone and the mixture of hilarity and vitriol are very difficult to replicate.
Good news here is that "Eligible" just about achieves the task! Especially effective are the new American locations, the flow of the witty dialogue, and the older ages of the Bennett girls. I like the updated, yet true-to-Austen characters. When patronized by a nurse's fake and cheerful "How are we today, Fred?", and ailing Mr. Bennett replies, "Bernard, we're mourning the death of manners and the rise of overly-familiar discourse. How are you?"
I can't give it five stars, as there are weaknesses: the book is too long, and the device of using a reality-TV tie-in is overdone. But, on the whole, one can imagine Jane herself (after the shock of the frank language and want of, uh, "delicacy") would appreciate this homage.
Cassandra Campbell is a good narrator for "Eligible". She avoids the temptation to be too arch or too, too precious in the performance. From other reviews, I am aware that a number of people did not like this. But I'm pretty picky about attempts to copy Austen, and I liked it.
When reviewing books I try to be fair; I appreciate that not everyone will be looking for the same things in a book.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is the fourth in the Austen Project of modern retellings of Jane Austen’s novels and attempts to bring her classic Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century. Having read the other three Austen adaptations, I was intrigued to see how Sittenfeld would update the story of Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley. From experience I know that Austen adaptations, when done well, can be wonderful. (check out The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube if you don’t believe me.)
I really, really wanted to like this book – I love Jane Austen, and the pre released teaser sample sounded excellent – but no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t sit well with me. In the interests of fairness, given how well known and beloved Pride and Prejudice has become, it was always going to be one of the trickier ones to adapt. Let me talk about what I liked first.
What I liked
The modernisation. Many things in the update worked surprisingly well. The transfer of the action from Hertfordshire to Cincinnati was seamless and gave a very similar flavour of the small town mentality that caused Darcy’s snobbish attitude. The Bennet family’s future being at risk because of the lack of a male heir is not something that would fit well with a modern tale, so Sittenfeld uses a more up to date threat which works in well. Surprisingly the whole reality TV show plotline adapts well and served to enhance both the story and the characters.
The narration. I listened to Eligible in audiobook format. Narration duties were undertaken by Cassandra Campbell who did a great job of narrating the tales of the Bennet sisters. I chose the book in audiobook format because of the sneak peek narration.
What I didn’t like
The chapter break up. The audiobook is 13 hours and 21 minutes long, so approximately 800 minutes. This is relatively short in terms of audiobooks. I believe the hard copy comes in at around 500 pages. There are over 180 chapters in the book. Let me say that again. One hundred and eighty chapters. This means that, on average, there is a new chapter roughly every four minutes. Some chapters last less than 40 seconds. Especially in the audiobook I found it extremely distracting and detrimental to my engagement in the story to have it broken up so frequently.
Character development. My biggest issue with Eligible was that I didn’t feel Sittenfeld accurately portrayed – or even at times understood – Austen’s wonderful characters and/or their journeys. It is fair to say that, perhaps her interpretation of Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia just isn’t the same as mine; however I would argue that they also differ from Austen’s.
To take Lydia first; while both Austen’s and Sittenfeld’s youngest Bennet sister is young, immature and, yes, does occasionally push the boundaries of propriety I have never perceived her as being downright crude and vulgar as she comes across in Eligible. Admittedly, I will never be able to read P&P with an Austen era mentality, so I could be wrong here. Secondly, Lydia’s story arc in Austen’s original has her family (and ultimately Darcy) having to step in to protect her from the consequences of an imprudent and ill considered decision. While it is not an easy task to come up with a modern storyline that has the same shock value and social repercussions that nineteeth century Lydia’s running off alone with a man would have, and I can see what Sittenfeld was trying to do, I personally disagree with her choice. At that point in the story I found myself thinking “What imprudent decision? What consequences?” Sittenfeld even has her Lydia try to sit down with her parents and discuss her decision before taking action and the impression I was left with was that it was a far more balanced and thought out decision than Austen’s Lydia would have made.
Jane’s character arc, too, wasn’t always given the service it should have. In my mind, in the original, Jane’s character flaw was that she wasn’t confident enough to express her feelings adequately to Bingley. This allowed Darcy to interfere in the relationship believing that she was not very strongly attached to Bingley. This is a flaw which she must overcome to achieve her happy ending. In Sittenfeld’s reworking, it’s Jane’s circumstances which force her to be more reserved about expressing her feelings, therefore no flaw, no character development.
Finally, we come to Elizabeth, the second oldest Bennet sister. My impression of Elizabeth from Austen’s original was that she is an intelligent, strong willed woman, who has a strong sense of self worth and who is not prepared to compromise that. Sittenfeld’s description of her Liz’s relationship with Jasper does not show a woman with a strong sense of self worth. Perhaps that’s Eligible Liz’s character arc, to regain that sense of self, but it’s not the arc of Austen’s character, and as such I didn’t feel it should have been part of the story, especially as Austen’s Elizabeth already has a strong character development arc in overcoming her prejudice of Darcy.
While there were some excellently written parts of Eligible, for me, it is the weakest of the Austen project books in terms of bringing Austen’s characters to life in a modern setting. I gave Eligible only 1.5 stars out of five.
If you want to see a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice done well, I recommend you rather take a look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube.
I thought this book was pretty all right for a while. I liked the modern equivalents of some characters, though others were a bit one-note and lacking. The central romance of the book did feel pretty meh, lacking some of the chemistry of the original, but it wasn't the worst.
What WAS the worst was the "climactic reveal". For readers of the original novel, this was the equivalent point of Lydia running off with Wickham. To modernize the whole thing, the author thinks it's a great idea to have the conflict revolve around a character being transgender.
From there it just spirals down into a repulsive mess, characters either being disgustingly ignorant or (even worse) patting themselves and each other on the back for how progressive they are. Meanwhile, the trans character himself is given no personality or character whatsoever, given that he's just there to be a plot point rather than a person. And since the character has very little connection outside of this one fact, it misses all the real interpersonal drama that had been such a huge part of the original.
I had actually been looking forward to getting to this part of the book, wondering what the modern equivalent would be, and literally any idea I had come up with would have been better than this insulting trash.
If you're an Austen devotee, my review probably won't help. This is touted as a modern Pride and Prejudice, but while I respect the classics greatly I can't recall enough details to state whether this book is a worthy comparison or blasphemy.
This book gave me the warm fuzzies. All the characters had realistic flaws, the family relationships were honest (i.e. dysfunctional), it current life situations and topics, and the dad's one liners always gave me a chuckle. True, the romance could have been more romantic, but I appreciate that not all love stories have to be chocolates and roses. Maybe it's been too long since I finished a romantic comedy and felt good, but I would recommend it.
As an avid Jane Austen fan I devour anything Austen. I was not disappointed with the modernization of the characters and the updated, yet familiar story.
I've read/watched/listened to many other attempts at bringing a 19th century story into modern day, most with some cringe worthy stories or character developments, I never felt like this story ever reached that point.
I wouldn't lie and say I didn't enjoy interpretations like The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, but in comparison Eligible has more developed characters and a more interesting story. It was real and gritty, where as others had a tendency to be fluffy with a story book ending. The plot twists were fun and unexpected. My only complaint is the ending and how bogged down in the reality show it became.
If you are a Bachelorette fan than this book is for you. For me, 1 minute of listening had me worried about my choice, 5 had me turning to a reliable old favourite. Not Austen, not eligible and not for me
I was looking forward to this book so much but it was a huge disappointment. Very silly with characters that were not likable at all. I could not finish.
I really enjoyed the original Pride and Prejudice, and even some of the modern takes on it like Bridget Jones Diary. But this one is pretty aweful. I wonder if the author actually read the original? What was done to Elizabeth Bennett as a character here, was terrible.
Some of the best parts of the novel were completely destroyed. What was done to the Bennett Family as a whole was down right disrespectful.
The only thing I enjoyed was the voice talent. Everything else was crap!
I thought this book would be good because it seemed to be so well liked but I couldn't get past chapter 10. The writing was erratic, the characters were all over the place and it was boring.
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