We all have bad habits, and we all have tricks that we fall for every time. Today we talk about one of mine, and that is reading books that are meant to either re-tell or continue the story of Pride and Prejudice. It’s a sickness, and it’s one I need to make public. From what I can find on Goodreads, I have read:
– Death Comes to Pemberley
– Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
– Jane Austen Book Club
– Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife
All of which either continue the story of P&P, or retell it, or contain some aspect of the story within it. Jane Austen Book Club was probably best of the bunch, mostly because it only had aspects of the various Austen stories in it, and was telling something entirely different. These books that are trying to take a great and beloved piece of literature and trying to smush it into something that it wasn’t necessarily meant to be…it hurts. Back when I listened to Death Comes to Pemberley, I remember actively disliking it, which rarely happens. I did not care for how the author (P.D. James) characterized these characters I know and love and made it all very weird indeed.
But the main part of my Pride-and-Prejudice adaption sickness is that I keep going back to these books. Oh – there’s a new one? Let me read it and ruin my life all over again! So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I found myself reading yet another adaptation, this one modernized, and called “Eligible”.
I was hopeful with this one, as it was written by Curtis Sittenfeld, an author I actually quite enjoy. She doesn’t really do high literature, but she’s written some fun and interesting books over the years. Prep, American Wife, The Man of My Dreams – all books I’ve read and enjoyed. Apparently this book was written as part of something called “The Austen Project“, which I’ll let you read about on Goodreads. Basically, I was destined to read this book.
But how was it? Not completely terrible. Yes – there were some ridiculously cheesy moments. There were aspects that felt sort of forced into the plot. Things that made sense in the early 19th century, but don’t quite work in modern day. Misunderstandings that could be cleared up with a simple text message. But I was also surprised to see how Sittenfeld adapted some of the Bennet sister issues to modern day. The best part in my eyes was the aging up – in 1813 if you weren’t married at age 20 or 22 (the ages of Lizzy and Jane), you were verging on old maid (not to mention Charlotte Lucas unmarried at – gasp! – 27!). So Sittenfeld places our main characters in their late 30s – a time in life when single women are depicted as desperate and/or un-marriageable.
There are lots of other things that this book does well – Jane and Bingley’s reason for breaking up. The relationship between Liz and Darcy. The reason why Lydia’s marriage is so shocking. It all feels very reasonable and realistically modern.
What does feel very contrived and sort of chick-lit-esque is the last few chapters. I won’t go into it, but it just felt off to me, and a desperate way to tie plot points together. I did like the very last chapter. It sheds light on a character that there’s always been a small amount of speculation about, and places them happily – even if it is unconventionally.
So – did I like it? Sure. It is literally not the worst P&P adaptation I’ve ever read. It might even rank up there with good retellings/adaptations, like the The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube, which I loved dearly. So yes. I liked it. Would I recommend it to you? Perhaps if you’re an Austen fan who has not been burned too many times, or maybe who has been burned, and needs a decent retelling to cleanse the palate. You could definitely do much much worse.
Details: Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld. First published 2016 by Random House.