First, a disclaimer. I LOVE me some Pride and Prejudice. I own several copies of the book, I love both the BBC miniseries, and the Kiera Knightly movie. I have a scarf printed with text from the book. I have read many of the modern ‘spinoff’ novels, and have enjoyed most of them.
So when I saw Eligible in the Charlotte airport while looking for a book to kill time during an unexpected layover, it was a no-brainer for me.
All that to say….. meh.
For me, part of what made the original Elizabeth & Jane Bennet so appealing was the contrast between them and their ridiculous family. The other sisters, as well as their parents, were portrayed as such unsympathetic characters, that it just emphasized the strength and grace of the eldest two daughters.
I found Sittenfeld’s version eliminated that gap. Yes, that contrast was there, but not to the extent that Austen painted it. I actually found the modern Elizabeth and Jane to be moderately irritating, self-centred, and frustrating. I appreciate the challenge of bringing these classic characters and the plot lines that are so familiar into this century, but I just found all the new characters to be rather… unlikeable. I can’t even put my finger on why, which maybe makes my complaint irrelevant a bit. But when you find yourself rolling your eyes at Elizabeth Bennet, you know something didn’t translate.
I do appreciate that some ‘modern’ issues that were explored (racism, homophobia, etc), but it didn’t really land well for me. The book seemed to want to be a lighthearted comedy that made these characters into caricatures, while trying to also address deeper social injustices. It didn’t work.
If you have no strong feelings about the original, maybe you’d enjoy this as a brainless beach read? But otherwise, I’d pass.