**Since this is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, I will be talking about plot points from the original and compare the two. If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice GO NOW! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?!**
After reading twenty pages I knew that I was in trouble. *Sigh*
I tend to be skeptical of modern retellings. Even if they do everything right, is it going to have the same magic?
A sign that the magic isn’t there: After twenty pages, I hated the Bennet family.
In Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible the Bennets are rich Cincinnatians who live off of inheritance money in a million dollar home that was given to them by Mr. Bennet’s parents for free.
Due to living 100% off of the inheritance money, and not having health insurance, the family is near ruin when Mr. Bennet has a heart attack. Mr. Bennet doesn’t disclose to the rest of the family that they are a hot second away from a financial precipice . So everyone continues to mooch, mooch, and mooch.
So this is the family that I’m so suppose to be sympathetic for? A country club family where most of them have never worked a hard day in their lives (save Lizzie)? Out of the five Bennet sisters, whose ages range 23-40, three live at the house and are unemployed like their parents. The eldest Jane, a forty year-old grown ass woman, still has her parents pay for her Upper Manhattan apartment because her Yoga Instructor job doesn’t cover her New York lifestyle.
Lizzie (38) seems to be the only competent person in this family, but the reader is suppose to believe that she is both smart and stupid at the same time (the stupid side is apparent in how she handles Jasper Wick).
So after the first 100 pages, things slowly (and I mean slowly) got better, but even the best section of this book was just… ok.
At this point, I’m thinking: What if I’m wrong? What if I’m taking everything waaaay too seriously? I mean, this is supposed to be a humorous romp, right?
So tell me, if this book is supposed to be ‘a fun romp,’ than why is it so utterly joyless?
I mean, for reals. I might have chuckled twice throughout the entire book. I did more eye-rolling than anything else. Sittenfeld made most of the supporting cast unlikable modern stereotypes, but the worst were the Bennet parents. I hated them.
First off, I understand that the audience isn’t supposed to like Mrs. Bennet (per se). But there is a difference between disliking and laughing at her follies, and just wanting to straight up punch her. There’s no real reason why Mrs. Bennet treats her daughters so horribly for being single, other than ‘time’s ‘a ticking and I wants grandbabies’. In the original, her motive was real, the fear that if Mr. Bennet would die that they would be left destitute, but it was her tactlessness and being unhelpful to her daughters that brought humor.
In this modern retelling, the humor (allegedly) comes from Mrs. Bennet’s cruelty, not only of her daughters but of anyone that’s not straight and white. Mrs. Bennet is not only sexist but racist, homophobic, and transphobic as well. On top of that, she’s a shopaholic who has rooms full of boxes of stuff while her home is falling down around her.
Mr. Bennet in the original was lazy and sarcastic, but he still loved his daughters, especially Lizzie. But in the retelling, I really wonder if he cares for anyone. Sure,he was lazy before, but here he’s so lazy that he dumps responsibility for the whole ‘oh shit, we’re broke’ situation onto Lizzie, and doesn’t plan on doing anything about it, so EVERYTHING is left for Lizzie to figure out. And maybe I blacked out, but I don’t remember Mr. Bennet eve being really grateful for Lizzie single-handedly saving them from ruin.
Lydia and Kitty are pretty awful throughout. In the last act they start gaining some agency and independence, but I still wish they were fuller characters.
But they still far exceed the wallpaper that is Jane Bennet and Chip Bingley.
Actually, Darcy wasn’t too bad, he started to grow on me, but it took three hundred pages to get invested in Lizzie and Darcy. I just didn’t understand the connection and then… ok, this might be a spoiler, but Lizzie and Darcy have hate-sex. *Sigh*
Personally, I don’t care if they have sex or not as long as it makes sense in the story. But here it felt like fan fiction. Like most of the modern of elements of the book, it was a borderline gimmick. And not sexy, just awkward.
As I mentioned there were about a hundred and fifty pages that I thought were OK. Probably because Lizzie wasn’t with the Bennets. The further away from the Bennet family she got, the better it was. I was actually able to see the chemistry between Darcy and Lizzie there. There was also a couple of interesting characters, and the interesting twist of ‘the elopement’.
Sadly, it was cut short when the elopement caused Lizzie to lose all her brain cells and leave immediately to return to her family for no reason.
Oh I’m sorry, the reason is that she has to comfort her horrid mother, who objects to the elopement because she’s a bigot. Glad Lizzie ditched Darcy for that… no way she couldn’t wait a couple more hours.
The only reason why the parting happened was because the script demanded it, no real reason.
Which leads to my conclusion. Sittenfeld should have never made this a Pride and Prejudice retelling.
There is a story here that could have been enjoyable, but Sittenfeld was so concerned with keeping the plot as close to Pride and Prejudice as possible that it hurt her.
Here, plot happens because it happened in the original. Otherwise, Sittenfeld might have been able to drop some of the trendy gimmicks and edit a few characters out, along with one hundred pages (Seriously! Why is this five hundred pages!?).
So here is my suggestion, go watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube instead.
It’s silly and over the top, but damn it if it’s not the best modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice yet.
I could list a lot of reasons why, but the main one is heart. It’s cheesy, but it’s the truth. You can tell the creators cared about the characters and the story. Actually, most of the characters are well-developed and they make it worth the watch alone. Let me explain why.
Lydia, while a party girl, is a complex character.
The chemistry of both couples is thick and believable. I can see from their first interactions why they are drawn to each other.
I like Jane in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries even more than the original!
Caroline is actually a strong antagonist, cunning and deceiving (unlike in Eligible where she is as subtle as a freight train).
Charlotte doesn’t go batshit crazy for no reason (I can’t even touch how ridiculous the Collins/Charlotte plotline is in Eligible).
Eligible just felt mean-spirited, and I could never get on board. I know a lot of fans of the original like this book, but I think the characters I loved deserved better.