This post comes from BookPeople event team member Meike.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that retellings of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice abound. Some are almost as sharp and witty as the original; others are sorely lacking. But Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible falls squarely in the first category.
In this take on the Bennett family, Liz is a magazine editor in her late thirties. Like her older sister Jane, a yoga instructor, she lives in New York City. Liz and Jane are called to the family home in Cincinnati when their father has a health scare, and find that the household is a hot mess—youngest sisters Lydia and Kitty are too busy with their Crossfit workouts to get jobs; middle sister Mary seldom leaves her room (except for some mysterious Tuesday night outings that she won’t discuss); and Mrs. Bennett is obsessed with marrying off her daughters (between catalog and online shopping, which may or may not have become an addiction). Mr. Bennett is befuddled by it all.
Mrs. Bennett’s prayers may have been answered when handsome doctor Chip Bingley enters the picture and shows an interest in Jane. Chip gained some measure of fame when he appeared on the reality TV show Eligible, where a bachelor chooses from an array of young women vying for a proposal (a kiss on the mouth versus on the cheek is how the bachelor communicates one lady’s dismissal each week). Unfortunately Liz isn’t quite as taken with his friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, who exhibits a decided lack of charm—but could first impressions be deceiving?
Sittenfeld is the New York Times bestselling author of 3 previous novels—Prep, about an angst-ridden 14 year old girl; American Wife, about a bookish first lady who bears an uncanny resemblance to Laura Bush; and Sisterland, about an anxious psychotic suburban mom. Her superhuman powers of observation rival those of Jane Austen—she has been called “one of our best contemporary chroniclers of class and caste”—so her take on the iconic Pride and Prejudice is a natural fit. The book is immensely sly and funny, and compulsively readable (I finished over the course of a single weekend).