‘adj: desirable and worthy of being chosen esp. as a spouse’
Eligible, the latest novel by American Wife writer Curtis Sittenfeld, has been a novel I have waited and wanted to get my hands on since I first heard about it. Eligible is published by Borough Press, an imprint of Harper Collins and was launched on 21st April 2016. I was lucky enough to receive my copy from writing.ie in exchange for an honest review.
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 thirties 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 fortieth 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. (Courtesy of curtissittenfeld.com)
Eligible is a novel written as part of The Austen Project, in which six of Jane Austen’s famous novels get a more contemporary rewrite. There will be many Austen fans who balk at such suggestion, but I for one love the idea. It introduces Jane Austen to a whole new group of readers, who would otherwise not choose to read the classics.
Eligible is a modern twist on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.
Yes women are portrayed as fickle individuals looking for men, but isn’t that just sticking to the theme of Pride & Prejudice, as Jane Austen had portrayed.
The book is based on a modern version of the Bennet family. Mrs Bennet is in despair as her eldest daughter Jane is approaching her 40th birthday with no sign of a beau on the horizon. Her remaining four daughters show no sign of encouraging any marriage proposals soon and she is in a state of panic.
‘Somehow the fact that all five sisters were unmarried made them a phenomenon, an amusing or appalling one, depending on your perspective, though in either case there was rarely recognition of each women’s individuality.’
The Bennets are a well connected family in Cincinnati. They live in what they affectionately call The Tudor but is now a large mansion in disrepair. They are a family in a state of disorder with Elizabeth (Liz) the only one capable among them. Liz and Jane have arrived back from New York, due to their father having a medical episode. While home, Liz realises that the Bennet family need to be rescued.
Liz is the stalwarth of the Bennet family. She somehow feels it is her responsibility to save them but you wonder will she ever get to find her own path in life and love.
‘She had wondered, she now realised, if she’d make it out or end up staying forever, trapped by obligation and inertia; yet it was the very act of leaving that cast doubt on the desirability of escape’
Throughout the novel the tension between herself and ‘Mr. Darcy’ is brilliantly played out. Will they…won’t they? Well, I’m not giving that away now. It just would not be proper to reduce myself to such gossip!!
Curtis Sittenfeld’s portrayal of Mr Bennet is just brilliant. He has, in my view, the best lines in the whole novel. Every phrase is tinged with wit & humour.
In referring to Liz ‘She shows her gratitude by accusing people who saved my life of malfeasance…..As you can imagine, her mother and I are very proud’
When speaking to an overly familiar doctor ‘Bernard! We’re mourning the death of manners and the rise of overly familiar discourse. How are you?’
This underlying humour in conversation is to be found throughout the novel. The relationship between the five sisters is fraught with smart remarks and cutting put-downs but you know that underneath it all, as a family unit, they love each other.
Every one of the daughters has her own very individual personality. Mrs. Bennet suffers hugely with anxiety for all five and she herself has hoarding issues which she justifies on a regular basis to all.
A very modern take on a modernised ‘Bennet’ family.
This is a love story, a romance, what we would probably describe as a RomCom if it ever hit the Big Screen. You can almost picture who you would put into certain roles with Hugh Grant of course making an appearance!!
It is a novel you approach with cynicism parked up. I loved it and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for an entertaining read about siblings, about the loss of propriety and about love.
Let me know what you think.
About the Author:
Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the bestselling novels Sisterland, American Wife, Prep, and The Man of My Dreams, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Prep was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 byThe New York Times, and American Wife was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2008 by Time, People, and Entertainment Weekly; both were nominated for the UK’s Orange Prize.
Curtis’s non-fiction has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Slate, Glamour, and on public radio’s “This American Life.” A graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Curtis has interviewed Michelle Obama for Time Magazine, appeared as a guest on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ and CBS’s “Early Show,” and been a strangely easy “Jeopardy!” answer (Courtesy of curtissittenfeld.com)