Thank you to netgalley and Harper Collins UK for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Eligible is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is set in Cincinatti after Mr Bennett has a heart attack and Liz and Jane have to go home to help their parents get their lives sorted out. It follows the same plot of Pride and Prejudice but there are a few minor changes built in to tackle how the story would appear in modern society as opposed to the early 19th century. Bingley is newly moved to Cincinatti after a stint on a tv show called Eligible (which is basically The Bachelor) and he and Darcy are doctors at a hospital.
I requested this book on netgalley as I thought it would be a fun interesting read. Whilst I enjoyed it I felt like I spent about the first 50% of my read through not enjoying it at all. However, once the story really kicked in with things between Liz and Darcy heating up I found it a lot more fun to read. My biggest problem with the beginning of the book and why I found it so hard to get into was the way it was written. It wasn’t bad writing or anything but Sittenfeld basically wrote a bunch of chapters outlining all the characters backstory, which isn’t a writing type that I am particularly fond of, and felt a lot like monologuing. I much prefer when backstory is woven into the plot instead of taking time out to go over everything.
I really wasn’t a fan of it being set in America because I love the original so much and feel the characters themselves are particularly suited to England. Lizzie especially has such a quintessentially British sarcastic humour that I don’t feel translates very well to the American humour.
I did enjoy that Sittenfeld factored in inflation of ages. In Pride and Prejudice Lizzie and Jane are considered quite old to be not married or at least engaged despite the fact they are only in their early 20s, but at that time that was quite an old age to still be single. In Eligible Liz and Jane are in their late 30s which is what is considered an old age to be single in today’s times.
Something that stood out to me at the beginning of Eligible was the word choice used. Sittenfeld used a lot of longer/less used words, which isn’t a bad thing, there are a lot of beautiful words that are so rarely used. My problem came when at some point the style became a lot more casual and it felt like in the first few chapter Sittenfeld was trying to wow people with the vocabulary.
Another thing from the offset that really put me off was how short the chapters were. There was honestly some 50 word chapters, which is just ridiculous. I enjoy short chapters but why section it into a chapter instead of a paragraph, or a cut? It makes absolutely no sense to me.
There were some humorous moments that I really enjoyed, like the references to Willie (Mr Collins) and Liz being incest and when Darcy confesses his love to Liz, it is a great and hilarious moment.
There was times when the characterisation was completely on point and then there was times that something was just off about it. I came away just feeling a bit confused about it all. Mrs Bennet was absolutely ridiculous, and at times felt over the top, even more so that Pride and Prejudiced. She felt forced and like Sittenfeld was trying too hard to make her batty that she let it get away from her. Something else that I found strange about the characterisation was that Wickham was split into two different characters for the two parts of the plot which are reliant on him. And there was absolutely nothing to do with Georgiana and Wickham.
Overall there was some strange ways of changing the plot to be more modern and things that were so bizarre to me keeping in mind that it was a P&P retelling. However once I got into the book it was a fun read and I did stay awake to read the last 10% of it when I definitely should have been asleep.
Eligible is released tomorrow