Saturday, May 14, 2016
Book Review - Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
That said, I’ve decided not to hold back in my negative review of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Ms. Sittenfeld, like the other authors in the Austen Project series, is renowned in her field and will certainly not suffer any harm from my meager opinion. She most likely will not even read this, and ultimately will continue on in her successful career.
When I learned of the Austen Project, I was thrilled to know that established, respected authors would be taking on Jane Austen’s work, updating them with their own voices and styles. Although other works such as Emma and Sense and Sensibility have already been published, I began reading this series with my favorite of Austen’s works, Pride and Prejudice, which has been renamed Eligible for this volume.
I expected the modernization of the source material. I expected deviations from Austen’s characters and plot. This was not a problem. What I didn’t enjoy was the sheer amount of trashy content that was sprinkled throughout the book. WARNING: I will not be shying away from spoilers. If you’d rather go into this novel without my negative opinion or these glaringly ridiculous facts in your mind, I urge you to discontinue reading.
As expected, the younger Bennet sisters Lydia and Kitty are not only ridiculous, but embarrassing to the family. However, in this Austenesque incarnation (and I hesitate to even call it that), they go beyond embarrassing to being downright crass and disgusting. I may be called out for being a prude when it comes to their behavior and truly foul language, but that doesn’t concern me. Lydia and Kitty are so repulsive; I didn’t find them amusing in the slightest. Like the unseen Anne De Bourgh, I wish they’d been eliminated from the cast lineup entirely.
To continue in the ludicrous line of ideas I found within these pages, the title of this novel is taken from (of all things) a reality show called "Eligible", which seems to be a clone of the television show, “The Bachelor”. The book as a whole eventually takes on a similar tone, in that it’s low-class, unrealistic and bawdy. Yes, Liz and Darcy did have palpable chemistry and were at times interesting to watch as characters, but I couldn’t get beyond the amount of R-rated content that was included in their lives and in those around them. When Mr. Collins goes to propose a romantic relationship with Liz, he initiates the discussion not with an awkward speech or phone call, but by jamming his tongue down her throat in an unwelcome kiss. There is more than one mention of the use of dildos in the story, and Mrs. Bennet is more than just annoying—she’s downright racist.
I could go on and on about how much I disliked this novel, but I feel that my opinion (as singular as it may be) has been made clear. There’s no need to go over my distaste repeatedly. For those of you who enjoy reality shows like “The Bachelor”, this might be the book for you. If the shredding of Austen’s decency doesn’t concern you, then by all means give this a try. However, if ever I’m asked if I enjoyed Eligible, my response will be a decisive “No”. My only hope is that the other titles in the Austen Project are not as deplorable. The ones do I own will remain on my shelf as I look forward to giving them a try someday. As for Eligible, it will be headed directly to my local used book store, in hopes that I can swap it for another title that will be worthy of my time and effort. This one certainly was not.