Eligible can easily stand on its own, apart from being a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and part of The Austin Project series, which matches modern authors with Jane Austin’s works. Curtis Sittenfeld, best known for Prep, hilariously brings the Bennet family into the land of Kardashians and Botox. The plot remains the same, but the journey for Elizabeth (or Liz) and Fitzwilliam Darcy is entirely present day (erm, rather 2013).
Even the Bennet sister’s choice of careers, or lack there of, take a modern twist. Jane is a yoga instructor lives in New York City along with her sister, the protagonist, Liz, who happens to be a writer for a women’s magazine, with a solid feminist stance. The middle sister, Mary, is living with her parents and working on (her third) master’s degree. The youngest two sisters (Kitty and Lydia) are carbon copies of each other, living under their parent’s roof, obsessed with CrossFit and lunching. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (of Cincinnati) are living in denial about their dismal financial situation, not helped by Mrs. Bennet’s shopping addiction and Mr. Bennet’s lengthy uninsured hospital stay.
The aforementioned hospital stay is what brings Jane and Liz back from New York, to their crumbling childhood home. While the more current take of the story provides us with less balls, and instead substitutes the grand affairs with cookouts and hosted dinners, the reader does have Mrs. Bennet’s constant fertility quips and efforts to marry off her daughters to remind them that the content the book is based on is anything but modern.
The title, Eligible, is based off a Bachelor-eque reality show of the same name in the book. A show that a certain Dr. Chip Bingley was featured in. Chip’s recent move to Cincinnati, along with his Harvard degree, is all anyone seems able to talk about. A much plotted and planned encounter between the Bennet sisters, Chip and Chip’s co-worker (and good friend) Darcy, quickly goes awry for all except Chip and Jane, who immediately begin a relationship. The story falls in line with Pride and Prejudice from there, but with spider infestations, hate sex, a surprise pregnancy, a transgender character, and many other details that would have never shown up in an Austin novel. Which isn’t a bad thing. The path to love/marriage has changed in the past 200 years and Eligible is a fresh look at a Austin’s story and the iconic characters in it.