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Eligible - Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld

This is the fourth novel of the Austen Project following Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, Northanger Abbey by Val Mc Dermid and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith. I had high hopes for this one – how could I not? Curtis Sittenfeld was the selected author.

Here is the blurb …

From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first 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 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

I was concerned to see a quote by Mark Twain at the start – did Ms Sittenfeld not know the antipathy Twain had for Austen?

This

To me his prose is unreadable — like Jane Austin’s [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane’s. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.

and this

Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

And then I read the rest and realised Ms Sittenfeld doesn’t like Austen and this is her revenge. I am sure she is laughing at Austen fans all of the way to the bank.

This Lizzie is rude not witty (and doesn’t appear to be overly bright) and the crisis (the equivalent of Lydia running with Wickham) is awful and such a non-crisis. Spoiler alert! I don’t understand how running away with a transgender man called Ham can be at all morally reprehensible. The Lydia in the original would have been cast out of society if Mr Darcy had not intervened. In this one, Mr Darcy reconciles Mrs Bennet to the elopement by describing Ham as having a ‘birth defect’.

Kate Fenton’s Lions and Licorice (published as Vanity and Vexation in the US) is a much better rewrite as is Pride and Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan.

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/21/eligible-curtist-sittenfeld-review-modern-retelling-pride-and-prejudice-novel

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/06cb9a3c-fcaa-11e5-b5f5-070dca6d0a0d.html

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