Reading Response: Eligible

eligibleThe last month of school is not a good reading season for me. Life pulls me in more directions, mentally and physically, than usual. Reading is hard. Movies are sometimes easier. I stared two different books in May but couldn’t continue, due to no fault on the book’s part. They are still on my TBR pile. It wasn’t them, it was me.

But then, the glorious day came. School was out! We celebrated with friends, we went out to eat, we visited the park. . .and five days later I hesitantly cracked a book. I don’t like being a book quitter. I wanted it to stick this time. The book was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, and it stuck.

I love Pride & Prejudice. I like the book, I like the miniseries, I like the movie. I was pretty sure I’d like this version, provided the modernized plot wasn’t too overdone or convoluted, and I was really happy with how Curtis handled the story. All of the major players are present: the Bennets, the Lucases, Bingley, Darcy (still bearing the name Fitzwilliam, bless him), and Caroline. George Wickham is there, too, in an interesting way; he was split into two different characters, Jasper Wick and Ham Ryan (get it? get it?) and fulfilled most of his Wickhamish duties in this retelling, in a different way.

Elizabeth is a 38-year old writer living in New York City when her father has a heart attack. She and Jane, a yoga teacher also in NYC, fly back to their hometown of Cincinnati to tend to their father, their basketcase mother, and their three spoiled sisters. Well, to be fair, all of the Bennet girls have been spoiled to some extent, but Jane and Lizzy have at least learned how to be decent people in the wake of it. Lizzy is imperfect but likeable. At a party at the Lucases’, they meet Fitzwilliam Darcy (just call him Darcy) and his friend Chip Bingley, both doctor acquaintances of Dr. Lucas. And things progress much as you’d expect, but in a new way. Curtis’ writing is fun and light and she tells the story well. It’s a long book, but many of the chapters are short, which I liked a lot.

And there are some twists. Lydia’s scandalous marriage is not scandalous in the same way as Austen wrote it, and the family’s reactions get a little sketchy and nerve-wracking at times. Bingley is the former star of a Bachelor-type dating show called Eligible, and is kinda still finding himself. He seems a bit wishy-washy, but isn’t he in Austen’s version as well? Darcy and Liz’s relationship follows a similar track but feels new.

I’d definitely recommend Eligible to Austen fans and those who have never read the original. I thought it was entertaining and well-written. And it got me out of my Reading Slump! Look out, TBR pile. I’m back.

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