This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
Pride and Prejudice, as great a piece of literature as it is, is largely a parody of its time. Mrs. Bennet’s desperate hunt for suitable husbands for her girls, the resigned Mr. Bennet, the silliness of the younger Bennet girls, the commentary on social class. The humor and wit is quite subtle, but – Liz an Darcy’s romance aside – it is a parody just the same. In that sense, Eligible is a great homage to it. It is filled with wit and dry humor, a rare thing these days.
This book is a lot more obvious, and rather louder in its humor than the original, which is to be expected, considering the times. It is adapted to the modern day, and as such, some people might find the situations more crude (for example, Bingley first appeared in a version of The Bachelor), but one can’t deny that back then, as it is now, marriage is but a game. If you think about it, the situations aren’t too different, for after all, a host of desperate beauties are being paraded in front of an eligible bachelor in the hopes of getting a ring. It just wasn’t televised back in Austen’s days. Neither could you google a potential suitor.
FITZWILLIAM DARCY ATHERTON, CA, Liz typed into Google, and after reading through the results, she tried, sequentially, Fitzwilliam Darcy Harvard Medical School, Fitzwilliam Darcy University of Cincinnati Comprehensive Stroke Center, and, just for the hell of it, Fitzwilliam Darcy girlfriend.
The sisters have been updated quite admirably. All are adults, most living at home with their weary parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. They were all expensively educated, and besides Jane and Liz, most are doing absolutely nothing with their lives, unless you consider Crossfit lessons a lifelong calling (I say that in jest, although if you ask a Crossfitter, I’m sure they’ll actually agree). The sisters are rather true to the original, down to Mary’s tendency to annoy the living shit out of people and her dad’s tendency to wish he had had a vasectomy.
“Tease me all you like, but the clock is ticking. No, Jane doesn’t look like she’ll be forty in November, but any man who knows her age will think long and hard about what that means. And Liz isn’t far behind her.”
“Plenty of men don’t want children.” Mr. Bennet took a sip of coffee. “I’m still not sure that I do.”
In this book, Darcy is a neurosurgeon, and our first impression of him ain’t that great.
“Here’s what I’ve learned about the people in this city,” Darcy was saying. “They grade their women on a curve. If someone is described as sophisticated, it means once during college she visited Paris, and if someone is described as beautiful, it means she’s fifteen pounds overweight instead of forty.”
He’s talking about Cincinnati, a city that’s not exactly on my bucket list, but still. Ouch.
One of my few complaints about this book is that it does have a tendency to be verbose. The narrative is pretty funny, but it often rambles into people and subjects I feel are space fillers. Sittenfeld has a talent for writing, and as such, the rambling is quite easy to read, but it does make the book feel overly long. Despite that, the book is an admirable homage to Pride and Prejudice.
I received this book as an advanced reader’s copy.