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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible: A modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice is Curtis Sittenfeld's fifth novel; however, it is the first Sittenfeld novel that I've read.  Eligible is part of a series of modern re-tellings of Jane Austen's works; previously Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey have all been updated and re-told by such well known authors as Alexander McCall Smith and Val McDermid.  I haven't read any of the other modern re-tellings--but I may give them a try.  Of all the Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice is the one I love best and with which I'm most familiar.  By now you all know of my fondness for Jane Austen adaptations and British period dramas.

For various reasons from the first chapter I was not sure whether I would finish this novel or not.  But at some point a switch flipped, and I was all in with the story.  It's a fast read due to short (sometimes very short) chapters.  The story has been transplanted from the English countryside to Cincinnati, OH, (you read that right), and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Lydia are still insufferable.  Wick[ham] is still a cad, only he has managed to worm his way into Liz'z life and affections for the better part of a decade, stringing her along even as he dates and marries (and has a child with) other women (!!!).  I didn't really understand how Liz ended up in this 'friendship' with Wick in the first place as far as allowing him to string her along for long as he did.

Liz and Jane are in their late 30's, and after living in New York City for over a decade, have returned home to Cincinnati to care for their father following cardiac surgery precipitated by a cardiac episode.  The girls return to the family home where their three adult younger sisters have yet to leave the nest only to find the situation more dire than expected.

The family home is in a state of dilapidated disrepair, their mother's shopping addition has run unchecked for years, the family's in debt up to their eyeballs thanks to Mr. B's mismanagement of the family finances (which was his ONE freakin' job, okay), and now they have hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills because there was no health insurance to cover Mr. B's medical emergency (because the man let it and his life insurance policy lapse a while ago).  Meanwhile Mrs. B.'s only concerns are keeping up appearances, maintaining their excessive lifestyle, indulging the younger girls, marrying off her still single older daughters, and denying the family's financial crisis.  Mr. B. has no will to do anything to fix the mess he helped create so it falls to Liz to wrangle her parents' debts, mete out tough love to her younger sisters, and whip the family home into shape for a quick sale.  All of which she must do while dealing (variously) with a visiting (step) cousin who decides to hit on her, coming to terms with Wick's duplicity, and helping Jane through a broken heart and impending single motherhood.

And I haven't even touched on the reality show element and Liz's relationship with Darcy.  Ultimately I think both fans of Pride and Prejudice as well as readers not familiar with the story will enjoy this book.  While knowing the story of Pride and Prejudice adds an extra layer to the story, it's not necessarily required to enjoy reading it--there's enough family drama for that.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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