So while Sittenfeld’s Mrs. Bennet retains the original’s misplaced snobbery and self-pity, she is in this version also a lover of trash television. Her current preoccupations include an addiction to a “Bachelor”-like reality show called “Eligible,” which does double duty as the novel’s title.
.. Meanwhile, Mr. Bingley, the good-natured landowner of “Pride and Prejudice,” is here awarded a new first name, Chip, and makes his initial appearance wearing a pair of doofy seersucker shorts. Chip, an emergency-room doctor, has recently appeared on “Eligible” as the resident bachelor — whether freely or under coercion from his ambitious sister/manager is an open question. He has exited the series still unattached, which makes him, conveniently, a single man in want of a wife.
.. Mr. Darcy is also a doctor, a snooty neurosurgeon from San Francisco wondering why he has pitched up in a place as provincial as Cincinnati. Called Darcy, because “Fitzwilliam” is such a mouthful, he keeps fit by running, a pastime that allows him plenty of opportunities to encounter Liz Bennet so they can flirt, insult, and have satisfyingly explosive “hate sex” with each other.
.. The book begins when Liz and her older sister, Jane, a nearly 40 yoga instructor, return temporarily to Cincinnati after their father’s heart surgery. They find a nest of troubles: The family is heavily in debt; no one is paying attention to their father’s health; the house is sliding into ruin; and their birdbrained younger sisters are unemployed and living at home. Mary is pursuing her third online master’s degree; Kitty and Lydia spend a lot of their time at the CrossFit gym. (“Another source of irritation,” Liz notes, “was that her sisters looked fantastic.”)
.. She’s the one you want to leave the party with, so she can explain what really happened.
.. Austen divided “Pride and Prejudice” into many short chapters, some just a few pages long, and Sittenfeld has followed that format in her much longer book, so that “Eligible” has a full 181 chapters.
.. In one of the classic scenes in “Pride and Prejudice,” Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth that he loves her while also delineating the reasons he shouldn’t marry her. In “Eligible,” Darcy is even more blunt. “You’re not beautiful, and you’re not nearly as funny as you think you are,” he proclaims. “You’re a gossip fiend who tries to pass off your nosiness as anthropological interest in the human condition.” (“Sorry,” Liz replies, “but I still consider you a jackass.”)