Pride & Prejudice Goes Modern

IMG_4307It was a cloudy summer day sort of like today when I first discovered Jane Austen. School was out for the summer, and I was desperately searching for something new to read at the local library.

I’d already plowed through the majority of Judy Blume’s books and muscled my way through The Sword of Shannara, which at 736 pages, felt like an accomplishment of epic proportions for someone who’d just finished seventh grade. I’d also recently read the biography of the San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky and a travel book about London, so perhaps in an effort to continue feeling well-rounded, I picked up a book with an intriguing title and a pink-cheeked young woman wearing a dress with puffy sleeves on the cover.

Of course the aforementioned girl with the billowy frock wound up being Elizabeth Bennet, someone I considered something of a kindred spirit for years and years to come. I’ve read and re-read P&P several times since that initial introduction, and I’ve always loved being transported into a world that couldn’t feel less like the one I live in. And while I couldn’t personally relate to having four sisters or a mother obsessed with marrying her daughters off to wealthy suitors, I could identify with Bennet’s conflicted feelings about Mr. Darcy, her love of long walks and her feisty, independent spirit. In short, Elizabeth, and Jane by extension, were some of my favorite people, even if they only existed on the page.

That said, I wouldn’t consider myself an Austen purist and have no problem with anyone who takes it upon him or herself (has any man ever attempted this, by the way, I’m so curious) to offer a modern spin on these beloved stories. To wit, I’d probably consider including Clueless (as if!) on my list of Top 10 movies of all time (gotta love that meddling Emma lives in Beverly Hills) and am total sucker for any Austen-inspired novel, save for P&P and Zombies which made me laugh (at it, not with it, mind you) more than anything else.

So when one of my favorite authors Curtis Sittenfeld (PrepAmerican Wife) decided to revisit P&P with Eligible, I knew I’d be reading. In what’s a thoroughly modern take, right down to the reality show angle and choice of Cincinnati as its setting, Eligible has plenty of winks and nudges to the original material while being a fun, fast-paced story in its own right. For the better part of three evenings, I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a story with clever plotting and well-drawn characters never goes out of style, no matter what the source material is. Eligible offers that, and more, in spades and is absolutely perfect for summer reading. And just in case you wonder what the modern-day Liz is up to, she now writes by the glow of her MacBook for a magazine called Mascara. That and other intriguing revelations await you in Eligible.

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