Sittenfeld, Curtis. 2016. Eligible. New York: Random House Publishing Group.
$28.00 USD. ISBN 978-1400068326.
Kudos to Ms. Sittenfeld for delivering an excellent modern adaptation of the classic Pride and Prejudice, which I am sure was a daunting task! Part of “The Austen Project” which pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works, Eligible is the most recent title published after Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollop, Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith.
There have been a number of other prequels, sequels, movies and adaptations to, arguably, Ms. Austen’s most famous novel. I am very impressed with how Ms. Sittenfeld was able to capture the character traits of each of the major players and keep some of the dialogue and diction consistent with the original, as well – especially the hilarious comments made by Mr. Bennett! In this adaptation Elizabeth is a magazine editor who has been in a long-term relationship with the married Jasper Wick. She and Jane, who is a yoga instructor, both live in New York and agree to travel to the Bennett family home, set in modern day Cincinnati, Ohio, to care for their father who recently had heart surgery. Mrs. Bennett’s frivolousness, Lydia and Kitty’s uselessness, Mary’s extreme misanthropy, and Jane’s humility and goodness all shine through, like the original characters. Darcy is just as awkward and egotistical, and is modernized by being a brain surgeon at a local hospital. The title, Eligible, is derived from a “Bachelor” – like TV show on which Chip Bingley agrees to appear prior to the opening of the story. There are many other differences, of course, as would be needed in a contemporary adaptation, especially Lizzy and Darcy being able to work out their tension with “hate sex, “ which would not have been appropriate in the time of the original text!
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will add it to other adaptations the next time I put up my library display called “For Fans of Jane Austen.” I applaud Ms. Sittenfeld for thoroughly modernizing this tale, yet keeping the characters and story-line consistent to the original. A charming and engaging read!