Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Curtis Sittenfeld - Eligible

This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master's degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won't discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane's fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip's friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Comment: I've been trying to remember why I decided t would be a good idea to read another book about Pride and Prejudice, this time a retelling rather than a follow up like was Colleen McCullogh's case. 
I love the original, it's probably always going to be in my top 5 ever of favorite books and I've discovered it's a risk to keep trying to hold on to the same feelings I had when I found out about it. All new books, whether sequels, adaptations, re-tellings, versions or follow ups which are basically fan fiction about the original story or fantasy scenarios with changes can be imaginative but, mostly, disappointing for a faithful reader. At least I'm on that side rather than the one of those who only see anything P&P related in front of them.

In this modern time P&P story line, the beloved characters all live contemporary lives and must face situations that, despite close to the original still have many changes.
Lizzie is now a magazine writer and Darcy is a neurosurgeon. Their first encounter is pretty much the same - he speaks badly about her - but the development follows some of the same setbacks. Mr Bingley still needs to marry but this time he was in a reality show, like The Bachelor, to find the woman of his dreams. Jane is now a yoga instructor.
The challenges are different, women have rights but the issues of the heart are timeless, aren't they?

Nothing is like an original item. Nothing. People can re do it, people can five it new clothes (in music the new versions can sound amazing) but there's nothing like the original. If we like it, then it's even more difficult to surpass those shoes.
I feel like this about Pride and Prejudice and for that I try to stay away from books that are not non fiction opinions about it. I always feel some magic is lost and I can't take it back, especially when it comes to the feelings I have about the original.

I can't remember, like I said, why I got this book but not only did I pick it to buddy read with my friend H. but I must have thought this would be a good one based on some opinion/review I can't also tell from where at this point.
Since I like the original so much, I feared my curiosity would be greater than my appreciation of this re-tale. On one hand, it was so, on another I could appreciate the imagination of the author.

I liked this version because it was sort of fun to follow the events of the original though the new changes in this one. I liked matching each occurrence to the original, although some choices taken by the author weren't as literal. It was funny the story went from England to Cincinnati. I also liked how ironic and sarcastic some things are and it was actually very interesting to notice all the little disguised critics about so many subjects in this book and how they related to the critics Jane Austen certainly included in her novels.
It was also special to see all characters developed somehow, even if they weren't always very friendly, as opposed with the original where they more polite but not all had much air time or focus.

As for the negative aspect of having this version, well, comparing everything makes some choices seem rather condescending, too obvious and often misleading when one thinks about the overall effect. I felt it didn't have the same balance as the original. At times it also felt like these contemporary choices weren't  done to make us like the characters but to make a point. I especially didn't like how the author transformed mr Wickham into a character that so obviously mistreated Lizzie in this version. Although part of it was on her. But that can be just my own perspective.

Many people certainly imagine the romance between Lizzie and Darcy as being the main point of all this. I sort of liked it but maybe the biggest change this author could have done would be to, in the epilogue, give us more scenes about them as a couple and, overall, I would have liked that some details were different so that the character's expectations and decisions would have happened accordingly. I felt their relationship ended up being very poorly explored and much potential lost. if one thinks about all the possibilities a contemporary could ensure.

All things considered, this was a (lengthy) version, it had interesting details, choices... but I confess I expected more emotion, more seriousness in many aspects. Still, an entertaining choice if one wants to have an easy read and likes to make comparisons.
Grade: 6/10

No comments:

Post a Comment