Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a a retelling of one of Jane Austen’s most famous works, Pride and Prejudice. The story is set in modern day Cincinnati with Elizabeth “Liz” Bennet and her sister Jane returning home, after living in New York City for many years, in order to tackle the numerous problems that arise as a result of their father’s health scare. It is during their extended stay in Cincinnati that the two sisters meet Chip Bingley, former star of the reality tv show “Eligible”, and his surly friend, neurosurgeon FitzWilliam Darcy.
While Eligible isn’t a bad read, I can see why it and other books published in the short lived Austen Project did not fare well in terms of reviews. While I do not believe that Austen’s messages are no longer relevant, I do believe that the plot lines of the books themselves only work in the context of Austen’s time. I applaud the attempt to modernize this classic work, but I do believe that some aspects of it bordered on the ridiculous. I found the entire reality tv plot line completely unnecessary. It did nothing to add to the plot of Eligible aside from making Chip and several members of the Bennet family look foolish for obsessing about the show. And while I admire the author for trying to discuss some of the more prevalent social issues of our time, just as Austen herself did, I thought those attempts fell flat and seemed to once again contribute nothing to the overall story.
One of the things I did enjoy about Eligible was Liz’s snarky humor and her talent as a journalist. That is exactly the type of job I would imagine Austen’s Lizzie would have if such work was accessible to a woman of her class. I also found Jane much more interesting in this adaptation than in the original. I can’t say the same for the rest of the Bennet girls who came across as extremely foolish with less reason to be than in the original book. Their constant bickering began to grate on my nerves after a while.
Overall, I would give Eligible 3 stars out of 5.