Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Sittenfeld begins the story by setting the scene; Jane and Liz both live in New York. All of the other Bennett sisters still live in Ohio with Mr. and Mrs. Bennett in their Tudor home. All girls are still unmarried. Jane is a yoga instructor, Liz is a journalist for a women’s magazine, Lydia and Kitty don’t have jobs and Mary is in school for her master’s degree in psychology.
The Bennett family lives in Cincinnati in the Hyde Park area. The reason Jane and Liz find themselves back in Ohio is because Mr. Bennett had a heart attack and needed more looking after than Mrs. Bennett was able or willing to provide. Mrs. Bennett spends a majority of her time preparing for the Women’s League Luncheon (or something like that). Since Mr. Bennett still had follow up appointments to get to, Liz and Jane decided to stick around for a while to help out. Despite Mr. Bennett’s condition, Mrs. Bennett was still diligently working to get her daughters paired off with respectable (and wealthy) young men that they could marry.
Word gets out that a young bachelor, who participated in a reality TV show called Eligible, moved to Cincinnati. Chip Bingley is an ER doctor and will be working at a hospital in Ohio which is why he had moved there. The Lucases (Charlotte’s family) are well connected and well known in the area so they plan a bar-b-que at their house inviting Chip Bingley, Caroline Bingley, Dr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the Bennett family and some other employees of the hospital. Jane, who had never heard of Chip, met him at the bar-b-que and they got along well. After the BBQ, Jane and Chip begin spending more time together; it is evident that they like each other a lot and are attempting to figure out what to do about that. However, Jane is keeping a secret from Chip that may change their relationship forever.
Liz meets Darcy at the bar-b-que and immediately dislikes him because of his bluntness when answering questions or holding conversations. Liz overhears Darcy giving his honest opinion about the city of Cincinnati, the people in it – particularly the women and specifically mentions Liz and the Bennett’s as an example of Cincinnati gone wrong. Liz ends up with a personal and general dislike of Darcy based on these first interactions. The novel follows Liz as she tries to navigate her parent’s difficult financial situation and repairing the crumbling house; how she handles taking care of her family, working from Ohio, juggling a weird relationship with a married man in New York and her complicated feelings toward and about Darcy.
Although the story has some major and small changes; the main storyline is essentially the same and the characters personalities from the original novel are not compromised. The book has a lot of chapters, but they are all pretty short (about 2-3 pages each); it is easy to read, follow the characters and story and quick to read. The novel is great through most of the ending which takes you into the future to see how each person has fared. However, the actual ending of the book was weak, there was no epic ending or climax to the whole story. The book kind of ended on a flat note and could have ended with the follow up on Liz and Darcy since that is who the reader spends the most time learning about. I can see why this book got a mixture of reviews on Goodreads; as with any book there were those who loved it and many who stated the book was not a good modern day version of the story and that it could have been done better. I thought the story was good for the most part, but the ending could use some more work or just leave some parts out. I did find some parts funny, but maybe not as many as there could have been or that I was expecting.
I had been looking for a copy of this book for a while – I didn’t want to purchase a new copy in case I wasn’t excited about the book – but I wanted to read the story and hadn’t found a copy at any of the local libraries. I finally stumbled on a copy at the local used bookstore and didn’t waste any time picking it up to buy it. If you’re not able to find a copy at your local library, I recommend checking a used bookstore if there is one near you or if those are not options, you can purchase a copy of the book from Barnes and Noble for $17.00 (or $15.30 for Members!) or on Amazon for $10.34 (a Prime item too!).
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