Eligible is not a 5-star piece of literature. But I enjoyed the hell out of it. I could not put this sucker down.
I’m sort of sad that I’m now caught up with all of the books thus far written for The Austen Project (see my previous reviews of Emma: A Modern Retelling, Northanger Abbey, and Sense & Sensibility) and this one is by far my favorite.
Liz Bennet is in her late 30’s, living as a magazine editor in New York City, having an affair with the ghastly (and married!) Jasper Wick. She and her sister Jane (almost 40, a yoga instructor, undergoing IVF treatment to get pregnant with no boyfriend on the scene) fly home to Cincinnati when their father has emergency heart surgery, and move back in to their childhood home with their three ridiculous younger sisters and their intolerant of everything mother.
At a 4th of July barbecue at their friend Charlotte Lucas’ house, they meet Dr. Chip Bingley, a former contestant on Eligible — just like The Bachelor– who was infamous for being a cryer, his horrid sister Caroline (who also happens to be his agent), and Chip’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy (a talented neurosurgeon new to Cincinnati and not loving it). Of course Chip and Jane immediately hit it off, Caroline is a shrill bitch, and Darcy is a standoffish jerk.
But here’s the thing…in this version of Pride & Prejudice, Darcy just isn’t that bad. Liz is WAY worse then he is. She’s often rude, sometimes crass, and always gossipy. Her younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are absolutely AWFUL. Jane seems sort of dim. Her mother is a racist with a shopping addiction. And her father is sort of a jerk for never doing anything about any of the nonsense he sees going on around him. Mary shows a bit of personality (I know. Right?), and Lydia is almost redeemed in the end, but I really just didn’t like Liz all that much. Yes, Liz looks after her family and tries to help them sort out their various issues, but she sort of went about it with a martyr complex. Meh.
And yet, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. EVEN THOUGH I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT. Weird, huh?
I enjoyed Cousin Willie, the Silicon Valley millionaire who comes to town to attempt to woo his step-cousin, but settles for Charlotte instead. I loved that Darcy was always spotted at Skyline Chili. I liked how Sittenfeld brought Cincinatti alive, showing that it isn’t just a boring Mid West city. And I really enjoyed the relationships that both Lydia and Kitty ended up in.
What I didn’t really care for was Liz’s obsession with the obnoxious Jasper, nor her initial treatment of Darcy. I get that Liz is a grown woman, but the way that she used sex and used her partners really annoyed me. I thought Darcy deserved better, and I was glad when she realized the same.
I also could have done without all of the spiders.
While this isn’t quite as fun as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.