Published by Random House on April 19th 2016
Genres: JAFF, Modern Pride and Prejudice
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
I felt so much feelings—strong feelings—while reading this book.
Eligible is a part of the Austen Project where six bestselling contemporary authors are paired with a Jane Austen Novel. In this modern retelling, we are brought to the 2000s and introduced to a very real and relatable Bennet family. Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, both in their late thirties, return from New York to their hometown in Cincinnati after their health insurance-less father suffers from a health scare. Upon returning, Liz is dismayed to see their Tudor home and family income in such an abysmal state. A more dismaying fact is that none of her remaining family in Cincinnati seem to care enough about it. Her father remains unconcerned and only finds amusement in their crumbling state, her mother only cares about the Women’s League luncheon and the new resident doctor and former reality star, Chip Bingley, and her younger sisters remain unemployed and uncaring about their future or anything related to actually growing up. Liz, the only one with a stable income, is left to make sure her family manages to avoid destitution after this incident.
I loved the Bennet family and hated them (for me, it was a good thing that I did). In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet family’s antics are sometimes seen as comedic relief, but here in Eligible, the rose-colored glasses are off, and what you see is a family with flaws that are all too real. We have an apathetic and sarcastic father, a racist, transphobic, ignorant mother, and three spoiled and unemployed younger sisters.
Jane and Elizabeth are not without faults, of course. Why would two generally pleasant women stay single in their late thirties? It is not for a lack of trying, I assure you.
Despite all their faults, I loved reading about the Bennets. I loved the banter between the family members where their conversations overlap with each other. It was like watching a real family interact with each other during dinner.
Now, off to Eligible. Eligible is a The Bachelor-type reality show where the newest ER doctor Chip Bingley and his emotional finale rose to fame. Failing to find love on the show, he moves to Cincinnati in hopes of finding it. The first time the Bennets meet Chip is during a barbecue at the Lucases, where he brings his sister Caroline and his good friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, a very eligible bachelor—rich, insanely good-looking, and a neurosurgeon.
What happens in their arc is quite parallel to the book; Chip and Jane immediately get along, and Liz and Darcy do not. Not only does Darcy insult Cincinnati, he ends up insulting both Liz and her family. Because of this, Liz acts somewhat hostile towards the neurosurgeon. Even when Darcy speaks politely to her, Liz continues to take affront, and she always goads him. Chip and Jane’s love story is as rocky as Liz and Darcy’s. But fear not; as I’ve said, their arc is quite parallel to the book.
My only complaint is that I felt uncomfortable reading the mildly racist, homophobic, and transphobic quips, especially when they were meant to be in jest. I can totally see modern-day Lydia and Mrs. Bennet holding such opinions, but it didn’t lessen the discomfort I felt.
I feel like I have so much more to say about this book (good things), but I fear I might spoil readers if I do. It took me a while to give my rating. I had to sleep on it to see if I liked the book. I did—immensely. It was refreshing and enlightening to see such imperfectly perfect characters, and I’m really happy that Curtis Sittenfeld ended up writing this modern retelling. My final rating for this book is 4 stars.