Novel takes on classic novels
Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Eligible is now out in paperback, and it’s taunting me. You see, this fine writer’s latest offering is a modern spin on Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice and I’m not sure I’m ready for such tomfoolery! Pulling Jane and Lizzie from Georgian England and into the American upper class of present day? Oh sure there have been a lot of Austen-adjacent books, films and TV shows ( The Jane Austen Book Club, Lost In Austen, I could go on) But this is a literal transfer of the tale of Lizzie and Jane- no pains taken to pretend otherwise. And while I think Sittenfeld is an amazing writer, (see her tour de force story of a political marriage American Wife) I hold P&P close to my heart. One book gives me hope that this kind of storyline time travel can be accomplished well: Francesca Segal’s The Innocents.
The Inncocents is a retelling of the plot of another beloved classic, The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. The inverse of “Eligible” it takes characters from New York in the 1870s and plops them in London’s Orthodox Jewish community which has very defined codes of behavior particularly regarding contact between men and women. The book is a successful transposition of the story. If you didn’t know anything about The Age of Innocence, I don’t think you’d even realize the parallels. I gobbled it up, page by page. (love love love!) It can be done...
So what do you think, should I order “Eligible?” Let me know!