(In)Eligible: A Modern Pride and Prejudice

To be fair to Curtis Sittenfeld before I start reviewing her version of Pride and Prejudice, I think retelling someone else’s story in a new setting is really difficult. With that being said, I didn’t really like Eligible.

It started out strong. I thought she captured the Bennet family well, and I found Mr. Bennet extremely entertaining. I thought having Elizabeth and Jane move back home to help in the wake of their father’s health scare was a brilliant way to get all the sisters back under one roof while still differentiating between the younger, free-loading, dead-beat Bennet sisters and the responsible elder two.

 

For all of its promising set up, however, the book fell flat on delivery. Elizabeth takes it upon herself to clean out her parent’s home and put it on the market, as the family can no longer afford to maintain the house. This is supposed to be her shouldering responsibility, but to me that’s just overstepping your bounds. You can’t sell someone’s house behind their back and insist you were just doing what was best for them.

Aside from her interfering in everyone’s life, Elizabeth also lost quite a bit of my respect when she had an on-going affair with a married man. In Austen’s novel, Wickham fools everyone into believing he’s a great guy before Darcy reveals the truth about him. Sittenfeld’s Jasper Wick is just a scumbag and he really drags Elizabeth down with him.

Jane, who is supposed to be the other admirable sister, struck me as something of a non-entity. You’re supposed to root for her and Chip to get together, but I wasn’t real invested there. Part of the fault there lies with Chip. He was a very weak character. In the original story, he gets accused of just doing whatever he is told, but he comes across as a genuinely nice guy who’s just trying to make people happy. In Eligible, it seems more like he can’t make a decision so he just follows orders.

Mr. Darcy, of all people, comes out as the nicest person in the novel. He has never been my favorite Austen hero (Mr. Kingsley for the win!), but I found myself entirely on his side throughout Eligible.

All in all, I would give this 2 out of 5 stars. If you want to read Pride and Prejudice, then just go read Pride and Prejudice.

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