This book is an updated version of Pride and Prejudice, written by the American writer Curtis Sittenfeld as part of a project of updated Jane Austen novels – Alexander McCall Smith did Emma and there were others.
I read it because I have read all of Sittenfeld’s other novels: Prep, The Man of my Dreams, American Wife and Sisterland. Some of them I loved, they were brilliant and others I hated passionately. It’s odd, I have never encountered an author I have found so engrossing and so repulsive at different times.
Eligible is smartly-done and the updates are fun to spot; Lydia and Kitty are hateful Cross-Fitters and iPhone obsessives, Darcy is a neurosurgeon, Liz is constantly going for runs (as opposed to her famous P&P long walks). But Sittenfeld just can’t do romance, really, or sex. She really can’t do sex. My god the sex scenes in this book! Christ. My husband is safe from me for a few nights. The sex scenes in her other books were awful, too. You might argue that her sex scenes are realistic and I would say yes, fine, I’ve had sex that bad, too – but it’s not always that quiet and square and dismal.
I think Sittenfeld is just too much of an intellectual to tackle sex and romance with any real passion and the result is that this – and her other books – are bloodless.
And this wasn’t her idea, it was a commission -so it isn’t fan fiction, which is a bit of a shame, because however bad fan fiction can sometimes be (Fifty Shades?) it can also be a glorious passion project (Death Comes to Pemberley). PD James fancies the fucking pants off Darcy and it shows. EL James would lick Christian Thingy to death and it shows. Sittenfeld would probably want to sit down and talk about bloody politics with Darcy. And it shows.
Anyway, look, this is a good book despite all that. Sittenfeld does dialogue and social awkwardness like no-one else. Prep and American Wife are two of the best books ever so I’m probably just bitter.
The Guardian reviewer absolutely hated it and all the Americans loved it, it’s already a massive bestseller. You can buy it and read it with confidence; it passes the time nicely.