I’m writing to you from a hotel room in Cincinatti.** I’m here for the weekend to celebrate the marriage of one of my best friends. Feeling in the festive spirit, I decided to listen to Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld on my 12 hour drive. For those of you who don’t know, Eligible is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic – Pride and Prejudice. Much to my surprise (possibly because I didn’t look at the description) the setting is in Cincinatti. And my friend’s wedding was at the Hyde Park Country Club, where the modern day Bennetts kept their club membership! If that isn’t a way to immerse yourself in a story, then I don’t know what else is.
Moving on, Eligible was a pretty entertaining read overall. Pride and Prejudice is such a classic story, that it was fun to see how Sittenfeld interwove modern day situations and methods of finding love. There’s not too much I can say about the story, other than it gives a slight head nod toward gender diversity, as it features a trans*man. I thought that was a pretty neat addition, especially when working with characters who have already been so developed.
Since I was there to attend a wedding, I couldn’t help but reflect on the relationships the sisters developed with their various suitors throughout the book. There were traditional relationships. Some participated in infidelity. There were examples of women taking control of their romantic destinies. There were also examples of people rejecting the need for heteronormative standards. As an adult, I’m impressed with how controversial some of these things were back in the 17th century. Literature has always been a way that individuals have tried to move forward social norms in society. I think it can be really easy to forget that, especially when we don’t diversify our reading.
I was also impressed how Sittenfeld updated some of these “controversies” to match hot topics in modern day society. In addition to some gender diversity, there is some very light mentions of race and privilege. If there was a criticism to the book, I think that the author could have done a better job at expanding on some of the biases held by various characters in the book. A lot of the time these things seemed to be mentioned for shock value rather than an actual exploration of the topic.
At the end of the day, I recommend this book to any who like Pride and Prejudice. It was a pretty fun and fast read.
Until Next Time World…
**I wrote the majority of this post in Cincinnati, but failed to edit it until much later.**