The buzz surrounding the recent release of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield was deafening. After reading all about the internet’s anticipation, I caught on. Another modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice sounded all right. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was awesome. I was decidedly excited about this new adaptation.
As I read through the first four chapters my excitement faded. And the minute I read the words, “hate sex” as dialogue from Liz Bennet’s mouth, the hope I had dimmed to a mere flicker. I nursed that flicker though. Maybe it would get better. It didn’t.
The problem wasn’t the sex or unusual situations. The problem was that Ms. Sittenfield changed the characters so much that they barely resemble the original. Liz isn’t playful and witty. She’s sarcastic and defensive. She isn’t graceful in any way. She goes out of her way to antagonize Darcy whenever possible. And the worst part is that she’s introduced as being in an affair with a married man. Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet had strong morals and character. This version doesn’t hold up.
Darcy isn’t proud but sexy, serious and responsible, or dignified in any way.. He’s awkward and seems relatively okay with being used. When she suggests they have hate sex, he goes along (SO UN-DARCY). We’re all used to him bungling the whole affair between them with his first proposal, but here we see him doing so because he doesn’t communicate well and then decides it isn’t worth salvaging until he sees her again. Mr. Bennet seemingly hates all his daughters, including Liz. These are my favorite characters from the original and it was disappointing to see them so portrayed.
I will say, Mrs. Bennet, Jane, and (to a point) Lydia were pretty spot-on. And I actually enjoyed Mary’s little epilogue. But the good parts of the book were drowned out by the over-vulgarization of every point. It was like she wanted to make it as crass as possible to shock the reader. It worked. I was shocked.
It’s not all bad, but if you are looking for a modern retelling that captures the spirit and character of the original, look elsewhere. Ms. Sittenfield copied the basic plot and nothing more.