I’ve always been a fan of Curtis Sittenfeld, from Prep to American Wife and even Sisterland. And like most young women, I devoured Jane Austen in my early teen years. So when I heard that Sittenfeld would be writing a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, I was beyond excited.
It took several years, but finally I got an advanced copy of Eligible in the mail (Thanks, Random House!). I was thrilled, and it took everything I had not to beg off work to spend the afternoon devouring it.
But I waited until Saturday morning, got some coffee and Muncher’s donuts, and curled up on the couch to read it in one sitting, which is in my opinion, the best way to read a book.
With quick chapters, witty dialogue, and memorable characters that echoed their inspiration while being wholly modern and original, it was quite delightful. I didn’t love it as much as Pride and Prejudice or Sittenfeld’s earlier books, but it was entertaining. I may have laughed out loud several times.
Once I was finished, I was craving more modern stories that have the same feel of Pride and Prejudice—the keen insight into characters, the family drama and the romance, wit and wisdom but also a heavy dose of gossip.
So here are some more books in the same vein. Or more accurately, pick up on one of the themes of Pride and Prejudice and run with it.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman
If you like smart romance with a keen insight into characters, this story of finding love in modern day New York will hit the spot. Our boy Nate is a rising star in New York’s world of publishing, and has his pick of women to date; he’s also a blundering, neoliberal fool. Waldman writes with a sort of anthropological detachment, dissecting what it means to be a man in today’s world. If you really wanted to get more into Darcy’s head while reading Pride and Prejudice, this is the book for you.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
This novel has the intimate look close relationships between women that so many love about Pride and Prejudice coupled with an adorable romance that is not without its share of bumps. Lincoln is an IT guy at a newspaper just before the new century, with the banal task of reading through his co-workers emails. What he doesn’t expect is to become engrossed with the daily drama of Beth and Jennifer, and especially doesn’t expect to fall in love.
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Dry humor and sweet friendships make this a fun look at modern quest for love. This addictive read is an insightful look at what (relatively privileged, single white ladies) lives are like in New York in their 20s. I absolutely hate the term chick-lit, as if funny books about the lives of women can’t be capital-L literature. So without any derogatory implications, this is chick-lit.
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
If you love the Brontë sisters like you love Austen, this modern story of a woman on a Brontë themed scavenger hunt to find her inheritance (with the help of a condescending but charming professor) will surely please. A little bit gothic mystery, but with a protagonists full of quips, this enthralling novel will captivate.
Burning Down the House by Jane Mendelsen
Austen’s novels also subtly critique social customs around wealth and privilege. A bit darker than the previous suggestions, this literary drama focuses on a young woman adopted into a world of privilege, and a nanny who was trafficked as a child. An intimate look at a complicated family and a critique of capitalism. Mendelsen’s characters are authentic, equally vulnerable and vain, extravagant, and vividly imagined. What would Jane Austen think of modern globalization and its effect on intimate family relations? This might give some insight.
Do you have a favorite memory of reading Jane Austen? What modern books would you recommend to fans?