The basics: Eligible is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It's set in contemporary Cincinnati.
My thoughts: I begin this review with a confession: I have never read Pride and Prejudice. Unless you count the BabyLit version, which I have read to Hawthorne more times than I can count. Despite never having read it (or seen any of the film adaptations), I am quite familiar with the plot. I debated whether or not to read Pride and Prejudice before or after Eligible. I spent months, in fact, with a copy of Eligible on my Kindle debating. So I finally read it, and I'm glad I didn't read Pride and Prejudice first. Sittenfeld writes in a way that is thoroughly modern and authentic, but I was able to guess the actual events of Pride and Prejudice (confirmed by two friends who read both) quite well. There was one exception: I didn't surmise that Wick and Ham were the singular character of Wickham in the original, but I think the choice was inspired.
The title of the novel shares a title with a Bachelor-like television show. I was apprehensive about this element of the plot (even though I admit I do watch The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise), but it worked so perfectly...and provided a lot of humor. It's the perfect update to everyone in Cincinnati knowing who Bingley is and that's he's looking for love.
Some of the most humorous moments were smart updates on comedy of manners:
"Fred!" the nurse said, tough they had never met. "How are we today?" Reading the nurse's name tag, Mr. Bennet replied with fake enthusiasm, "Bernard! We're mourning the death of manners and the rise of overly familiar discourse. How are you?"In this sense, Sittenfeld manages to entertain and offer fresh social commentary, both in the present, and by tracing a line at how similar, yet different, our social mores are from Austen's time.
Favorite passages: "You're a gossip fiend who tries to pass off your nosiness as anthropological interest in the human condition"
"Your talent for gosip is a large part of why I enjoy your company." He was regarding her with an expression that both appraising and tender. "I've never met anyone with your interest in other people. Even when you're juding them, you do it with such care and attention. I can never predict who you'll like or dislike, but I always know your reasons will be very specific and you'll express them with great passion."
The verdict: Eligible is a delightful and intelligent romantic comedy. It's dialogue rich, and I kept imagining it as a play or a film. It's a delightful mix of high brow and low brow that will appeal to many different types of readers. There's humor, warmth, plot twists, and delightful feminist social commentary.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 512 pages
Publication date: April 19, 2016
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Eligible from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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