“Pride and Prejudice”... but with Texting and CrossFit
Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Eligible” reimagines the Jane Austen classic
Have you ever wondered what your favorite literary characters would be up to in 2016? Like, would Holden Caulfield go to Burning Man every year? Would Scout Finch be an investigative reporter at BuzzFeed?
That’s what makes Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible so fun--it’s a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic 1813 masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice.
Instead of 1800s England, Liz Bennet is living in 2013 New York City and working as a writer at a women’s magazine called Mascara. Liz and her older sister Jane, a yoga teacher, return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to take care of their father, and that’s where we meet the modern-day versions of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley--now a neurosurgeon and a doctor slash formerreality-show contestant.
Mrs. Bennet is still obsessed with marrying off her five daughters (who are older here, adding the stress of fertility issues), but casual sex and dating apps firmly place the girls in the 21st century.
At times it feels as if Sittenfeld is just plugging modern luxuries in for archaic predecessors (texts instead of snail mail and such) and her sprawling comedy of manners lacks much of the biting realism that punctuated works like Prep and American Wife. But all in all, Eligible is witty and compulsively readable.
It’s also fun to imagine what Austen would think of Mrs. Bennet as a shopping addict, Kitty and Lydia as CrossFit disciples and, most fun, Kathy (Lady Catherine) de Bourgh as a feminist icon.