Monday, September 26, 2016

What's Kristine Reading? September Edition

   It's no secret that one of my favorite authors is Jane Austen. I have read all of her novels several times. I own all of her books as separate editions, as well as a complete set of her novels in one bound edition that is a fixture on my bedside table. One time, when Dudley was out of town, I finished the book "Pride and Prejudice" and then immediately watched both the BBC mini-series and Keira Knightly film adaptations of the book. A veritable "Pride and Prejudicepalooza," if you will.
   So, when I heard about "The Austen Project," I was intrigued. This project, sponsored by HarperCollins, pairs six contemporary authors with the six completed books of Jane Austen. Each author was assigned to rewrite the book, but under a contemporary lens. Unlike "Bridget Jones' Diary" or "Clueless" which were inspired by the novels but had different characters, these books would use the same characters and storyline as the original books - just updated.  So far, I have read three of them - "Emma," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Eligible," which is the retelling of "Pride and Prejudice."
   While I would love to say that I have really enjoyed these books, I was ready to give up on The Austen Project after reading two - "Emma" and "Sense and Sensibility." It's not that the books weren't well-written, because they were. It's just that even though the authors tried to update the books, it wasn't enough, and plot conflicts that were prevalent in the early 1800's aren't really applicable today. This was an era where if a man and a woman were alone in a room together, it was assumed they were getting engaged. Estates being entailed to the eldest male heirs so the wife and daughters end up homeless don't exactly fly in today's society. And don't get me started about secret engagements that can't be broken because the man feels it's his duty to marry her even though she's a horrible person. It's a SECRET ENGAGEMENT!  Who is going to know?!
   Given my history with the Project, when I received the notice that "Eligible" arrived at the library, I didn't exactly race down to go pick it up. In fact, I even contemplated not reading it at all. But when I went to the library to pick up a different book ("My Brilliant Friend"), it was still there so I picked it up. And I'm glad I did because I, surprisingly, really enjoyed it.

   "Eligible" was written by Curtis Sittenfeld. I've never read any other books by her, but she's now on my radar. What I liked so much about this book is that she not only updated it, but she changed the storyline JUST enough to make it seem realistic. Sure, some of the storylines were a little far fetched, but this isn't supposed to be great literature. It's supposed to be fun, and it was. 
   The characters weren't 100% the same as the original novel, so it was neat to see how the storylines were going to develop. You still have the five Bennet sisters, of course. Lizzy is a writer, Jane is a yoga instructor, Mary is a professional student, and Kitty and Lydia are cross-fit enthusiasts. Mr. Bennet, is still very kind but kind of clueless and Mrs. Bennet is an overly-dramatic, somewhat racist, mess. Darcy is a very, very proud neurosurgeon and Bingley is a contestant on a "Bachelor" type dating show called "Eligible." And catch this - they live in Cincinnati! How do they all fit together? Well, you're just going to have to read the book and find out. 
   As far as the rest of The Austen Project, I think I'm going to give the remaining books a shot. At least the one for "Persuasion" when it comes out, since that's one of my favorite Austen novels. Hopefully, it will be as fun as "Eligible" was. 

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