Navidad Thélamour's Reviews > Eligible

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
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Eligible is the witty and modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Here you will find the Bennett sisters in the 21st century, complete with artificial insemination, yoga, and fad workout obsessions among other more raucous taboos. Here you will also find nearly 200 chapters—oh my goodness, those chapters; more on those below—and a page count a bit gratuitous for such a read. HOWEVER, within that excessive page count you will also find, sharply entertaining dialogue that’s convincingly witty and shockingly blunt that will keep you laughing along with the Bennett family throughout.

Eligible and I had a bit of a tug-of-war over my reader feelings for the first few chapters, I’ll admit. The dialogue struck me as funny, yes, even ingenious, but also superficial and surface-deep, if that. Initially, the characters struck me as two-dimensional chalk outlines that just happened to speak with droll absurdity that worked. Ah, but then I got to know the Bennett sisters a little better! If Sittenfeld was aiming for jaunty and clever, she certainly hit the nail on the head and was able to keep it consistent throughout. The writing was anecdotal, sometimes to its detriment and at times to its credit, but highly entertaining most of the time.

I must say that I’d be completely misleading you if I didn’t prepare soon-to-be readers for that chapter formatting, though. Some will love it, because it made the read feel that it was moving along faster—helpful when you’re holding almost 500 pages of what is essentially light-read chick lit in your hand—but for those of you who want to be profoundly engrossed and deeply invested in your characters, you may find this to be a bother. I straddled this line. There were times when I was practically dizzy with all of the vignette-type chapters sprawled out here, several of them less than a page long (that goes for pages on your phone, Kindle, iPad—less than a page anywhere, on any reading medium, really). I felt inundated by 200 flash fictions, which just happened to link together into a full-length story. At times I found it to be slightly annoying; sometimes I loved it because it seemed to make the read feel lightning fast, and sometimes it made me feel disconnected from the characters and their world because there wasn’t enough there in the chapter to pull me in. In the end, I think both sides canceled each other out for me, and it was fine.

Eligible definitely could’ve been cut down though. I don’t believe for a second that the editor didn’t notice those superfluous chapters that led nowhere—anecdotes about the past and random streams of consciousness—which should’ve been yanked out, because that definitely contributed to the relatively high page count and my antsyness toward the end. But aside from that last round of edits that went undone, this was a really funny and entertaining read. In the end, I did end up caring about the characters once I settled in—Darcy was my favorite, by far. Sittenfeld gets extra kudos for the way that this one came full circle. If you’ve ever read Austen’s classic on which this one is based, you basically knew how it would end, but Sittenfeld managed to toss in plenty of surprises along the way. I also liked the way that the title was used as a double entendre throughout this novel. Well done.

All in all, I found Eligible to be a jaunty little read that smacked of WASPy delights. It would make for a brilliant movie, likely better than it read, though I enjoyed it on a whole. The characters had wit and flair that would translate well on the silver screen. And, I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention my appreciation for the way that Sittenfeld handled Mrs. Bennetts’ casual xenophobia, cooly admonishing her as ridiculous, foolish and behind the times with just the right hint of “just the way it is.” That aspect added an extra layer of funny in a way that could have easily fallen flat or warranted an eye roll (like its counterpart The Nest, which I have also reviewed. If you’re a chick-lit lover, or even curious about the retelling of an Austen classic, this one will really work for you. Indeed, if you were a fan of The Nest, Eligible will work for you as well, because this one is definitely its much prettier younger cousin that you’ll be glad you chose instead).

So, keeping in mind that this was light-read material not intended to be the next Harper Lee brainchild, I give this one an easily attained 4 stars. ****

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Reading Progress

May 3, 2016 – Shelved
May 3, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
May 15, 2016 – Started Reading
May 16, 2016 –
page 131
May 16, 2016 –
page 238
May 17, 2016 –
page 380
May 18, 2016 – Finished Reading
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: chick-lit
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed-on-amazon
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed-on-barnesandnoble
May 20, 2016 – Shelved as: women-s-fiction
May 20, 2016 – Shelved as: waspy
June 16, 2016 – Shelved as: full-review
July 30, 2016 – Shelved as: author-liked-review-on-twitter

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine Zibas Great review. I wanted to read it no matter what (big P&P fan that I am), but at least I know what to expect with all the chapters. Sometimes this type of writing device can actually take away from the writing. At least I'm forewarned.

Navidad Thélamour Thanks! I hope it ends up working for you, Christine!

Taryn Lovely review! I've had some bad luck with WASPy books in the past, but this one was so entertaining!

Navidad Thélamour Taryn wrote: "Lovely review! I've had some bad luck with WASPy books in the past, but this one was so entertaining!"

Thanks, Taryn! Yes, this was definitely one of the better ones that I've read in that "category." :)

message 5: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Awesome thank you for the great review I am excited to read it now!
At first I thought the description of the book sounded a little superficial and cliché – yoga teacher, magazine writer, cross fit, paleo diets…lions tigers and bears oh my!
I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice so I am still very curious about this modern rendition. I am glad that you enjoyed it and were laughed along the way!
As long as it was better than the Nest than I’m sure I will like it!!

Navidad Thélamour Great! Can't wait to hear what you think of it, Jennifer!

message 7: by Barbara (new)

Barbara great review. I have passed on this one, but maybe I should give it a shot. I do enjoy some book candy once in a while!

message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy spot on. I had similar nits but in the end realized I read this in one day and wished for more chapters when I was done!

Navidad Thélamour Agreed, this is definitely good "book candy!"

Navidad Thélamour Shout out to Curtis Sittenfeld for liking this review on Twitter!!! :)

message 11: by Hayden (new)

Hayden Hi

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