Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Release Date - April 19, 2016
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 512 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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. 
Two words, for me, sum up Eligible: Hate. Sex. These words should tell you everything you need to know about this Pride and Prejudice retelling set in modern times. Filled with brash humour, insightful, and filled with characters that you'll either love or hate. This satire may not appeal to everyone, but I predict Pride and Prejudice fans will be curious enough to want to check it out.

This is not Jane Austen's version of Pride and Prejudice. Her subtly is lost in favour of a more in your face style of writing. This modernization is loud, and so current that it'll easily date itself in a few years. The nuance that you come to expect from Pride and Prejudice is there, it's just found in different places. The tone of this novel skews more toward comedic than romantic, and that may not work for everyone.

I adore this version of Liz. She, like the character who inspired her, takes control of her own future. She is strong willed, and that makes her engaging. She's someone who does things her own way and I've always loved that about her. I've always considered myself more like Jane, but I've always wanted to be more like Liz and this version is no exception. She's flawed, and  real. This characterization is something Curtis Sittenfeld writes with accuracy. The little flaws and quirks of human nature. Be it prejudices of Mrs Bennet, or the unfiltered declarations of Mr Bennet and everything in between.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is just as swoon worthy as his counterpart. He's shown to be handsome, broody, and to have a surprisingly kind-heart. These are all characteristics he shares with his namesake. The author obviously wanted to retain that allure of mystery that Mr Darcy has. I, however, wanted the opportunity to explore his character a little more and update him for the modern age. Chip Bingley also suffers this fate. He feels very similar to his namesake. He's shown to be a very kind, easily swayed young man. I would have loved some updates to his character as well, but this was, perhaps, the right choice as the tone and feel of the original are retained.

Plenty of the updates to the story work rather well and feel natural. Some of them, however, feel jarring. The update to Wickam's character, for me, did not retain the spirit of the original character. The entire Wickam storyline did not work for me in this. The Lydia updates, however, were fantastic. Her storyline is perhaps the most surprising because it's the one that is the most different from the source material.

The sisterly bond is something I've always loved about the original and that spirit is retained here. The relationship between Jane and Liz especially worked for me. I found their bond charming and real. I believed that they cared about each other. Their bond with their younger sisters was filled with equal parts love and exasperation. It's the strongest carry over from the source material. You believe that this family loves each other even when they don't like each other very much.

The romance, which is the thing everyone will be most interested in, was one of my favourite parts of the story. The longing, and tension between Liz and Darcy is captured here. You will become invested in the outcome of their relationship and the twists and turns it takes along the way. Even Chip and Jane's romance is sweet enough for you to become invested.

Pride and Prejudice for the modern age complete with reality television shows, crossfit and modern prejudices. Part of this novel's charm is the nostalgia factor, and this novel is sure to hit those notes time and time again. This may not be the book for everyone but those who do enjoy it will certainly look forward to whatever Curtis Sittenfeld writes next. 

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