Welcome to a series of Pre-Publication meetings. In these I read books that are about to be released and help you decide if you want to read it.
This week I had the chance to pre-read Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
What You Should Know:
- This is a modern version of Pride and Prejudice
- The world remains primarily white, upper class, and privileged.
- There is some talk about gender identity and gender reassignment in relation to a character
- A reality dating show, think The Bachelor, is a major plot point.
I always enter into P&P adaptations with a mix of trepidation and excitement. I have read some good ones and I have read some that make me roll my eyes. This one I enjoyed far more than I expected or wanted to. In this version Elizabeth (Liz) and Jane are closing in on their 40 birthdays (Oh, Liz is only 38… she makes a point of reminding everyone). The other 3 Bennet sisters, in their 20s and early 30s, still live at home. Then their father has a heart attack and the world shifts everything, primarily taking Liz and Jane back home.
There are some good decisions made for modern context. First, the Wickham character from the original becomes two different characters. Lydia, while flighty, has the ability to connect with others in a way her original character could never. Mary’s story is resolve MUCH better than in the original and I felt a personal connection with her that Austen never gave readers. Each female character is different and represents realistic types of women. It is easier to like Darcy. You can easily see both Liz’s prejudice and the breakdown of his pride.
As a reader I loved these things.
As a writer (and as a writer who has written modernizations of Austen), I felt frustrated. This is where the problems of adapting and modernizing a classic exist. It’s not how I would have written these character. I struggled with character development. I felt the way the novel opened, in terms of character personality, had some points that were left hanging or contradicted… especially in terms of Liz and her love life. While I liked the way Darcy was written, I struggled with the reality of Liz being consistent enough to carry through the novel.
It makes me re-think my own decisions as a writer at the same time. I go through my story in my mind and wonder if I should change this. For example, the sheer whiteness and privilege of this novel made me re-think a number of characters in my own works. I wondered if I could re-think the experiences of characters based on racial struggle or if race is so little of an issue that I can change it. I have to wonder if Austen fans are so married to the original characters that they can’t re-imagine a beloved character in a new way. I know I have friends who struggle with re-thinking a character they love in any work.
Did all this hurt the book for me? Not at all. It probably helped me as a writer as I move closer to publishing my own stories. I am glad I got to read this book when I did instead of putting it on the shelf and waiting until I had to force myself to read it.
Who Will Like:
- Fans of Pride and Prejudice adaptations/modernizations
- People from Cincinnati, OH – it felt very much like there were a lot of winks to these people.
- People who like reality dating shows may enjoy this one of how it is included in the novel.
One last note, I have an ARC copy that will be given away soon. Watch for that giveaway. It is going to kick off an April event.