Thus far, The Austen Project has been a major let-down. When I found out the next story was going to tackle ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I braced myself for another disappointment. Thankfully ‘Eligible‘ by Curtis Sittenfeld is by far the best of the series, but it’s still not my favorite Austen-inspired story.
In this modern-adaptation of the classic story, Darcy and Liz still have some good chemistry, but Jane and Bingley are the more interesting twist.
Chip Bingley is world-famous thanks to an appearance on ‘Eligible,’ a tv dating show much like the ‘Bachelor.’ His sister is his troublesome manager, and Dr. Darcy is less-than-thrilled to be in Cincinnati.
Liz and her sister, both in their late thirties, aren’t our typical Bennets either. While their younger sisters may be busy being addicted to CrossFit (well, except Mary, who keeps her life a little more shrouded). Jane is undergoing fertility treatments because she’s a modern woman that doesn’t need a man to have a child. Liz is a magazine writer, a typical romance heroine career choice, but also the force trying to keep her crumbling family together.
As events unfold, we watch the Bennets spin toward financial ruin and thrown into the spotlight of reality tv.
I liked that Liz and Darcy have a friends with benefits thing going on and Mary turns out to be asexual (plus the surprise from Lydia’s love-life). I feel like the majority of Austen-inspired stories still maintain a heteronormative culture. This story has little offshoots that don’t slap you in the face, but that definitely subtly create a more realistic and accepting society.
Liz and Jane being in their late thirties is a nice nod to the original novel, in which the heroines are essentially “of a certain age,” which was mid-to-late twenties for the Regency folks. I liked that they were both living in their own places, trying to be independent women while attempting to be good daughters (and, in Jane’s case, a mother).
Mama and Papa Bennet were difficult, but in a way that reminds me of my own family’s drama. Finances are a difficult beast to deal with, but even more so when family is involved.
The story also touched on class-related issues, though, like the original, the class is limited to middle and upper class.
Who should read this: If you’re a fan of reality tv dating shows, definitely pick this up.
What you should drink with this: Champagne. Buckets of it.