I know people have mixed feelings about this reboot of Pride and Prejudice but I heartily enjoyed it, and I think Jane Austen would have too. Though I never was fully able to forget this was an homage, Sittenfeld does a good job of playing with how the dynamics of Austen’s insular novel world would translate to a 21st century American context. Austen was poking sly fun at her characters, and Sittenfeld does likewise.
Instead of being set in the English countryside, this novel is set in Cincinnati and Bingley and Darcy are doctors not rich country gentleman. The Bennet family home is “on Grandon Road, in a sprawling eight-bedroom Tudor in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park neighborhood” but Liz and Jane, both in their late 30’s, live in New York. However, as the novel opens, Liz and Jane have moved home for the summer to help take care of their father, who recently suffered a heart attack. The three younger Bennets all still live at home, but they are fairly useless—Mary is earning one online degree after another, and Kitty and Lydia are both social-media and crossfit-obssessed slackers. Liz and Jane are shocked to discover how run down their family home has become and how deep in debt their parents are. However, Mrs. Bennet can only think about the upcoming Women’s League luncheon and the arrival of Chip Bingley, a doctor from a wealthy East Coast family. Chip is also famous for starring on a popular reality-TV show, Eligible, where he declined to choose either of the final two contestants, saying he needed to wait for his soul mate. As in the original, Chip and Jane meet and fall in love right away and Chip’s friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, does the complete opposite with Liz—insults both her and Cincinnati.
To go into too much detail here would spoil the fun of seeing how Sittenfeld shifts Austen’s satirical focus to our own current society—going after all sorts of targets. However, my favorite parts were the updates I didn’t expect (you’ll figure those out if you read this). Also, even though I’ve read Pride and Prejudice multiple times (and seen numerous movie versions), I still felt worried that this time Liz and Darcy might not connect with one each other and breathed a sigh of relief when they did.