Eligible is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in present day Cincinnati. It’s full of wit, humor, and sharp observations of the modern dating world.
My knowledge of P&P is pretty limited, so I don’t feel informed enough to compare the two books at length. I read P&P once a few years ago, and don’t remember much aside from the main characters’ names and basic plot.
My mom, however, is obsessed with Jane Austen and has probably read P&P a couple dozen times (hi, Mom!). She tells me how hilarious Austen’s writing is, which is something I don’t think I fully grasped when reading P&P for the first time. I liked the book when I read it, but I don’t think I understood the humor.
From my understanding, Austen’s genius lies in her satire of society, and Curtis Sittenfeld did this so well in Eligible. Reading it actually gave me a new appreciation for Austen’s wit. I went back and read a few passages of P&P, and it resonated with me in a way that didn’t before.
In the book, Eligible is the name of a Bachelor-style TV show, where a suitor dates multiple women at once, sending one home every week, until he finally picks the winner, who he is expected to propose marriage to. Liz and her four sisters get swept up in the world of Eligible’s lead, Chip Bingley, and his moody and offensive friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, when they move into town.
I like how Sittenfeld took Austen’s general concept and repositioned it 200 or so years later. And not just the concept, but the details too. Instead of Liz walking everywhere as she does in P&P, she runs everywhere. Instead of the 5 single daughters being in their 20s without having yet married, they’re in their 30s. I thought this was a clever way of portraying the evolution of certain aspects of human behavior. Plus, she did this so well that you almost forget that it’s a retelling and not an original story.
I also love the believability of the story. These characters are so relevant and realistic – something I find is difficult to find in a lot of novels, especially romance novels. Actually, the most unbelievable part of Eligible is that a world exists where Pride & Prejudice doesn’t.
This book also opened my eyes to a whole world of P&P retellings. I didn’t realize there were so many! Here are some that I’m particularly looking forward to reading:
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Have you read any P&P retellings? Tell me in the comments!