Monday, July 4, 2016

Abandon ye pride, prejudice, panty twisting - this one is super eligible for your Summer Reading List: Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House, 2016
ISBN: 978-1400068326
Review copy provided by NetGalley

My delight in British costume dramas, Jane Austen, and smutty books is, well, not a secret.  I’m not known to miss a BBC show on PBS involving long skirts, repressed and eventually unrepressable feels (yeah, I know it’s not a word, but try and pretend like you don’t know what I meant), drama of a sensibly British nature, and smoldering male leads in tight pants and long coats. If you’ve been paying attention, you also know well my love for ridiculous smutty books, as well as a good old case of the terribles.  Pretty much forever, Mrs. Bennet has been my all-time favorite unintentional Austen heroine (sorry Anne Elliot, you’re a close second); in fact, though Persuasion has persuasively stolen my heart, I really think Pride and Prejudice is actually the best, funniest, and most entertaining of all of Austen’s novel...which is probably why it’s so, sooooo widely adapted.

Hearing that there was another adaption of Pride and Prejudice was kind of like hearing that the Italian men’s national soccer team had flopped to excess again in international league play.  Hearing that it was written by the wryly amused and perceptive Curtis Sittenfeld, and set in Cincinnati, Ohio (a great spot I’ve visited, but not necessarily one of the sexiest places to set a romantic novel, yaknow? But then again, neither was Milwaukee, so maybe the Midwest is onto something?) however, perked my ears right up. This did not smell like an Armani scented flop!   And you guys.  IT WASN’T.

Please allow me to voice my inner fangirl for a hot minute: omg omg omg.  Okay, I'm done.

This was the MOST fun I’ve had reading a book since maybe reading the Royal We last year.  Sittenfeld has managed the a perfectly modernized P and P, one in which the characters Google each other, pursue artificial insemination, date diversely, appear on a thinly veiled version of the Bachelor, own Internet startups, teach yoga, live on their own, and...oh so much more. She gently skewers our century’s version of the Bennet shenanigans (of course Mrs. Bennet has a reality TV affinity and an online shopping habit, and Lydia and Kitty are total CrossFit/paleo groupies) and cliches of upper/upper middle class life, and still manages to give the story the feminist push we (okay me) wanted it to have.  And yes, there is some straight up slow burn, high five Lizzie and Darcy smut (it’s 2016, not 1813).  This is not your grandma’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s everything you want it to be, and nothing you don’t - it is fantastic in the way that it goes to where I wonder if Jane Austen might have had she been unrestrained in terms of social commentary, expectations, constraints and sexual tension.  If you’re expecting it to be as laced up and yearning as the original...stick with that.*  

I’m going to guess that most of you already know the story, but here be the publisher blurb:
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Don’t be a flopper! Pick up this book, pour yourself a sunny lawn chair, pull up a glass o’mimosa or two, and start reading.  Your summer vacation will thank you.

*Honestly I have to admit I'm kind of bemused by the litany negative reviews on Amazon...there are a lot of people who are super verklempt about how this is unfaithful, mocks the original, etc. repeat. Maybe take a knee, people, and have a think about this if you're a purist - this book is an homage written in fun, not as a literary masterpiece! I'm no English professor but you may have missed the point of the original, and, frankly, most of Jane Austen's writing: a love story that doubles as a sharp, critical, and clever social commentary.

1 comment:

Liz Gray said...

I loved this book too!

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