When I finished Vinegar Girl I started Eligible, not realizing the it was two modern ‘re-tellings’ in a row. Given my love of Pride & Prejudice (and Jane Austen in general), Curtis Sittenfeld is striding on very dangerous ground.
Where Tyler stuck very faithfully to the original, straining credibility, Sittenfeld goes on the general idea of the plot and characters and builds a story suggesting the original without mapping faithfully.
Initially I quite liked this. Darcy still was Darcy-esque and Liz still was Elizabeth-esque. The Bennet family fell into similar patterns.
Spoiler Alert: Don’t read on if you plan to read the book!
It was all a lovely beach read and harmless. It was a little weird that Darcy and Liz were having ‘hate sex’, but whatever. Until it came to Lydia and her horrible scandal. In P&P the scandal is running off without getting married. Lydia is sullied for life and all the other sisters will never marry well because of it. The family will be ruined. Darcy steps in and forces (and pays for) a wedding, saving the family.
Instead, the man Lydia elopes with is transgender. Darcy ‘saving’ the family is explaining to Mrs. Bennett that being transgender is a birth defect. This allows the mother to speak to Ham. There is some question of whether Lydia chose Ham because she’s actually gay.
I thought this was a very…. honestly poor choice. In this day and age to equate a transgender person with a scandal that will ruin the family and Darcy as the family savior for the ‘birth defect’ explanation. This as the ending of the book ruined it for me.
I wonder what other readers thought of it.
I don’t think Sittenfeld is a good enough author to take on Austen. The book feels closer to the ‘chick lit’, almost P&P ‘fan fic’, genre.
If you love Austen, skip this book. There are enough great books to read, there’s no need to read this book.