Last week, I was consumed by the book I’d been reading. It had taken me a few days to read the first 100 pages, but then all at once it swallowed me. In every good book, there’s a point of no return where the story doesn’t just entertain you, it devours you. In the book Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld, this point is roughly page 110. If you recognize her name, it’s because Sittenfeld is the brilliant mind that wrote Prep, and American Wife, among other well-known novels. Her retelling of the classic Pride & Prejudice is creative, fresh and very relatable.
The five Bennet sisters are called back home after their father suffers a heart attack. The main character, Liz, is called upon to be the responsible one. She spends her summer in Cincinnati (a city she worked her whole childhood to escape) looking after her parents and her younger sisters both financially and logistically. Liz struggles to be back under the scrutiny of her family, longs for her home in New York City, and battles her romantic demons with her long-term married boyfriend. Her older sister, Jane, is nearly 40, single and dying to have a baby on her own. The three younger sister, Lydia, Kitty and Mary seem to lack the intention to leave home, and the means. Each sister is caught in their own dramatic turning points of life, but Sittenfeld weaves them all together in an inspiring and heart-wrenching tale.
By the end, I was ready to call my own two sisters to see if they wanted to meet up for a girls’ weekend. Maybe we should go to Cincinnati?
This version of Pride and Prejudice holds a special voice of modern feminism that empowers the female reader, and calls attention to all the ways in which we conform in relationships – with friends and in romance. I finished this novel in a dreamlike state of romantic bliss and with a refreshed sense of personal power.