Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: 'Eligible' by Curtis Sittenfeld


Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible” is billed as “a modern retelling of “Pride of Prejudice.” Lizzy Bennet is single, as are her four siblings, Jane, Mary, Lydia, and Kitty, much to the consternation of their emotional and meddlesome mother. Lizzy and her good-hearted older sister, Jane, move from New York to Cincinnati to help their dad during his recovery from heart surgery. After looking into the state of the family's finances, Lizzy is shocked to discover that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have depleted their nest egg and allowed their large Tudor home to deteriorate.

There are superficial similarities between “Eligible” and the novel that inspired it. However, Sittenfeld’s plot is as unrestrained and outrageous as “Pride and Prejudice” is subtle and decorous. Jane Bennet is concerned that her biological clock is ticking (she is pushing forty, after all); Liz writes for a trendy women’s magazine, “Mascara”; Lydia and Kitty are party girls and fitness fanatics; and Mary is a loner and unemployed scholar with a caustic tongue. What makes this story enjoyable are the author’s off-the-wall humor and microscopic examination of her characters’ foibles. Liz is overbearing, blunt, and bossy, but she is also organized, determined, and compassionate. Darcy is aloof but devilishly handsome, filthy rich, and thoughtful. Jane and Chip Bingley (Darcy’s close friend and fellow physician) become romantically involved, as do Lizzy and Darcy. Alas, there are daunting hurdles on the path to wedded bliss.

Lizzy is a hoot. She decides to take her parents in hand, a daunting task that none of her sisters would dare to undertake. Jane makes a fateful decision that could wreck her matrimonial prospects, and Lydia falls for an unconventional suitor. Sittenfeld’s writing is fast-paced, breezy, and satirical. There are bursts of jarring profanity, giddy romps in the hay, and frequent arguments and misunderstandings. The author pokes fun at idiotic reality TV shows; skewers self-centered and shortsighted narcissists; and points out that, when it comes to matters of the heart, both men and women need to take off the blinders. The farcical developments culminate in an Austen-worthy, if somewhat silly, conclusion. Although it is unlikely to become a literary classic, "Eligible" is an entertaining look at life and love in the twenty-first century.



Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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