Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a THING with a lot of people. You can find a whole section on Etsy for items relating to what is probably Jane Austen’s most well-known novel out of the six that were published. There are big-screen movies and made-for-television series and literary spin-offs and Facebook pages and annual gatherings of P & P fans. There is even a zombie movie version of Pride and Prejudice.
All of this for a book written by a young woman about whom shockingly little is known and who, despite the romantic themes of her books, not only didn’t marry, but likely died a virgin. And not a zombie virgin.
I downloaded the book Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld sometime late last year because it was on sale from Amazon. I wasn’t even entirely sure what the book was about, and I had certainly not heard of the author. But $2.99? How bad could it be?
And then I didn’t read it for the longest time, partly because I discovered that it was a contemporary take on Pride and Prejudice. And while I have nothing particularly against that novel (which I haven’t read since high school), I also sort of took a stand against it in that way that I sometimes do because I hate being like everyone else and I get stubborn. It’s why I didn’t read Harry Potter books for a long time – everyone else was, and I wasn’t everyone else. But frankly, part of the reason why I didn’t read the book was because of the name of the author. How could a MALE AUTHOR think they could tackle such an endeavor as a contemporary version of Pride and Prejudice?
Dumb, for several reasons, not the least of which is that Curtis Sittenfeld happens to be a woman.
The plot is familiar. Liz and Jane Bennet have returned home from their lives in NYC to take care of their father who has had a heart attack. Their sisters Kitty and Lydia are too flighty to trust, and their sister Mary rarely emerges from her bedroom where she endlessly pursues master’s degrees via computer.
The Bennets have been high society in Cincinnati, but unbeknownst to Mrs. Bennet – who is much more concerned with finding husbands for her five unmarried daughters – they are flat broke.
Mrs. Bennet has ensured that Jane meets Chip Bingley, a doctor best known for his appearance on a television show Eligible, modeled after real-life The Bachelor.
Liz, in the meantime, has met and started knocking heads with Chip’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, a renowned doctor and peculiar fellow. Love and then complications ensue, just as in Pride and Prejudice. And if you are a fan of the original novel, you can imagine how it ends.
Still, after finally giving in and reading the book, I must admit that I really enjoyed it. It was a fun take on the original book, and interesting to see how the author handled the familiar situations. Like the original novel, Mr. Bennet was a dear, and it was impossible to not want to strangle Mrs. Bennet and the younger sisters.
I think this is a must-read for fans of P & P, but honestly, I think it is a cleverly-written novel that will be enjoyed by anyone who likes a great romantic romp. Don’t be crabby like me.