Arts Book reviews

Why “Eligible” should be your last summer reading book

photo by Sparknotes
Funny + clever= perfect final summer reading book

Who says that summer reading has to end when the kids go back to school? Just because fall is in the air, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon all fun reading to focus entirely on Serious Books.

That’s why before you head out for Labor Day (or even while you are stuck in traffic), consider picking up Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld as your final summer book of the season. And while most of Eligible takes place in Cincinnati (and big apologies for mistakenly saying it was set in St. Louis- OUCH), we’re reviewing it because Palo Alto makes a funny and pivotal appearance in the book.

Jane Austen never did CrossFit

A modern take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Eligible is not only funny and fast-pasted, but also very well written. Eligible features four unmarried sisters with the last name Bennet, but unlike Ms. Austin’s original, the women in this book are more obsessed with paleo diets, CrossFit workouts and reality TV than they are with finding a husband. Eligible’s clever title refers to a “Bachelor”-like dating show as well as the marital state of most of the characters.

Curtis Sittenfeld. Photo credit: Josephine Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld. Photo credit: Josephine Sittenfeld

The modern Bennet family also worries about money

But the modern Bennet family is similar to their 19th century namesakes in one key way: financial insecurity. That’s where the connection to Palo Alto and Silicon Valley comes in.

In Eligible, Mrs. Bennet becomes fixated on marrying one her daughters to a distant cousin who has overcome his teen reputation as a nerdy loser and is now a successful tech entrepreneur in you guessed it…Palo Alto.

A ‘farm’ in Atherton is worth how much?

And while the oldest sister Liz manages to evade her mother’s matchmaking, she instead keeps crossing paths with an aloof surgeon from the Bay Area named (wait for it) Fitzwilliam Darcy.

As a St. Louis native , Liz has no idea that the ‘family farm’ Darcy mentions in Atherton could bail out not only her family’s financial woes but also probably wipe out the credit card debt for most of the midwest.

You’ll root for the Bennet sisters all the way to the end

We won’t give any more away, but suffice to say that Eligible will draw you in from the first page and keep you laughing all the way to the end. Sittenfeld’s characters are so familiar and human, the reader can’t help but keep rooting for them even as they bumble through some painfully wrong decision-making en route to the book’s hilarious finale.

More about “Eligible
Love this story? Check out our review of The Portable Veblen– another great book set in Palo Alto, or subscribe to Palo Alto Pulse and don’t miss a beat (it’s free!).

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.