Monday, July 30, 2018

Eligible - by Curtis Sittenfeld

The cover tells us that this is "A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice". Like so many others, I read Austen's P&P in college. Not only that, but I wrote my own "modern retelling" of the tale for a writing assignment. I don't remember the novel very well, nor much of what I wrote in my own version; however, I do recall writing about some "scandalous" affair involving a teen pregnancy and a hasty marriage (based on the true woeful tale of a girl in my high school, and her catholic-school boyfriend). Like Austen's novel this one revolves around a gold-digging mother (well, let's call her "upwardly mobile") wanting to marry off her five daughters.

Eligible is written by someone with a lot more writing experience than I had as a college freshman. She also has a lot more material to work with in the 21st century than I would have even known to consider in 1986. This is to say that Sittenfeld's has written a richer and funnier story than I did, with more interesting characters.

Sittenfeld's classic biting critique of modern life is as evident in this as it is in her other works. And also like her other works, the library is part of the scene, but doesn't necessarily play a role. The favorite daughter, Liz, works for a women's magazine. Her first job in publishing had been as a fact-checker for a prestigious magazine, where she first met her (married) boyfriend, Jasper.
They had started their job using computers with spotty Internet connections, back when fact-checking  meant visiting the public library or waiting anxiously for the return of phone calls.
Mr. Bennet frequents Cincinnati's Mercantile Library to do research and explore the genealogy of his family. And Liz uses the public library to check out an audio book she hopes will keep her parents occupied on a long car drive.

One need not have read the original Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this wicked version. Fans of the Austen's work will find all the expected characters including Mr. Bingley (here a reality television star) and Mr. Darcy (a surgeon). An excellent summer read. I will have to revisit the original now.

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