Book review: Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld

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Author Curtis Sittenfeld.
Author Curtis Sittenfeld.

In recent years there have been far too many reworks of Jane Austen novels - we've even had Pride and Prejudice With Zombies - and truly I didn't think the world needed more but I'm making an exception for Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible because it's so much fun.

US author Sittenfeld manages to straddle the literary and popular fiction worlds. Her prose is witty and sharp; she knows how to tell a story. Her latest novel is part of the Austen Project, which has paired six contemporary bestselling writers with Austen's six novels. Curtis got the job of retelling Pride and Prejudice in modern style.

And so she has turned Liz Bennet into a New York magazine writer, Jane is a yoga teacher and Mary an academic, while Lydia and Kitty are obsessed with Crossfit and paleo diets. The five unmarried sisters are brought together in their Cincinnati home after their father has a health scare. The new love interest in town is a doctor, Chip Bingley, fresh from appearing in a Bachelor-style reality show. Mrs Bennet is quick to line him up as a marriage prospect.

But it's his friend, the insufferable, rich neuroscientist Fitzwilliam Darcy that Liz Bennet finds herself hating and loving.

Eligible covers fertility and transgender issues, there's a clumsy tech geek, binge drinking and hate sex - not much for "Austenites" to cling to. But there is a lot to like. It's amusing, keenly observed, richly ironic and the short chapters make it ideal to dip in and out of when life is too busy for a serious read.

(Harper Collins, $35)
By Curtis Sittenfeld

- Canvas

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