My favourite book of all-time is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I was first introduced to the story when I was 9 or 10 thanks to the BBC mini-series (Colin Firth is the only Mr. Darcy in my mind) and have since read the novel multiple times. I’ve watched most of the movies inspired by Austen’s characters, but haven’t had much interest in similar novels (I hated Austenland but did love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). When The Austen Project was announced, I didn’t want to add any of the books to my shelves, but after hearing so many good things about Eligible, I decided I’d give it a try.
Eligible, written by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and unlike other novels inspired by the famous story, it follows the plot pretty closely with tweaks here and there to bring it to the twenty-first century. For instance, rather than Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy just being rich, they are both doctors (Bingley is an ER doctor and Darcy is a neurosurgeon) and Elizabeth and Jane are in their late 30s rather than their 20s, so their mother wanting to marry them off makes more sense.
There were some things that I didn’t like about Eligible, like some aspects of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship (certainly Austen would think it scandalous) and while I understand that making a classic modern means changes need to be made, I was not a fan of the occasional vulgarity as I feel it distracted from what makes Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so great — the wit and the ability to paint a picture without needing to be explicit.
However, despite my misgivings about this retelling, I did enjoy it. I especially like the changes in Jane’s character, as I found her story the most compelling and liked what Sittenfeld did to put a modern twist on her plot line. I also liked that although I know the story of Pride and Prejudice so well, I was still surprised by the ending (though I feel like the last chapter was completely useless) and I was reminded of Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail sharing how she is “always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together”.
If you are a purist when it comes to Austen’s works, I would say skip this one, but if you don’t mind modern changes to a beloved classic, you should read Eligible. I’d be interested to hear what you think if you do read it!