Eligible vs. Pride and Prejudice

For the past couple of years the Austen Project has been giving well known writers the chance to redo Jane Austen’s six classics, “Eligible” is Curtis Sittenfeld’s take on Pride and Prejudice and the fourth in the series.

Light and fluffy, this novel is great for a mindless holiday read, but has very little depth to it. The chapters are short and just as you are getting into the narrative, the chapter ends and we’re on to the next happening, the next conversation, the next person. None of the relationships between the characters are explored and Liz’s change in affections towards Darcy happens remarkably quickly, within the space of a mere few pages.

Less a retelling more a parody, it feels like Curtis Sittenfeld does not in fact like Pride and Prejudice and has taken to mocking it.It is both crude and overtly sexual, I understand that for a modern retelling of an Austen novel to work and be relatable sex will be a part, yet Sittenfeld has taken it too far. Austen’s satirical tone and irony has all been lost under a barrage of laddish jokes, that to be blunt aren’t that funny. Combine that with the farcical ending and the reader is left with a slightly sour taste in the mouth.

None of the characters are particularly likeable, Austen’s characters all have flaws yet you cannot help but warm to them, they are after all just human. Sittenfield’s Elizabeth turned Liz is almost impossible to like, she is less of a character more of a caricature. I just want to give her a good slap and tell her she does not deserve Darcy. And Chip (Bingley) and Jane are just incredibly annoying.

Wickham in an interesting move is split into two characters,  which opens up a whole world of opportunity. One (Wick) is a real jackass and strings Liz along for years but his crime is confusing, underwhelming and has a strangely tenuous link to Darcy. The other (Ham) marries Lydia, is very likeable ands only crime is to be transgender. This is Pride and Prejudice updated with a clever twist, that falls slightly short in the end.

Perhaps it is because its an American interpretation, perhaps my sense of humour is wildly different to Sittenfeld’s or maybe (not to sound too harsh) her style of writing is not my cup of tea, I admit this is the first book by her that I have read. Either way it fails to live up to other retellings of Pride and Prejudice.

If your a fan of Jane Austen then this book is worth a read, even if purely for the line Liz utters to Darcy “want to go to your place and have hate sex?” but otherwise I’d give it a miss and try out Melissa Nathans ‘Acting Up’ instead.


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