Kathleen A. Flynn, The Jane Austen Project, Harper Perennial, 2017.

Rating:★★★★ (Hanna Alfredsson) 

The Jane Austen Project has everything you could ever want in a book. Time-travel, suspense, love, and most importantly, Jane Austen. This time-travel novel places you in Austen’s world, re-creating her in the most surprisingly believable way. I felt as if I was greeting and getting to know Austen herself, the way her mannerisms are described, her pensive and thoughtful brow, her wit and charm seemed to so accurately describe the author whose books I have come to love and cherish over the years. Henry Austen, her brother, is too characterized in a fun and realistic manner. His charm, looks, and manners are delicious to experience along with the title character. Though I will say, the characters we meet and develop friendships with in the nineteenth century are, in my opinion, much more interesting than the two modern protagonists of the story. Their characters are a bit apprehensive, possibly on purpose, but it made me feel detached as a reader to them, and I never developed a true relationship with them. Their relationship to each other as well felt forced. I kind of wish Rachel had ended up with Henry, since in the end, time doesn’t really seem to matter all that much, and to be honest it would have been a more interesting story line. To touch back on my note on time’s importance, I really liked how Flynn took a darker path with questions about time-travel’s morality, the selfishness of man, and the value we place on mystery and elusiveness. It took the novel from fluff and fun, which is not a bad thing necessarily, and gave it layers and depth. Great read, overall I give it four out of five stars.

(Ellen Everitt) <https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32930819-the-jane-austen-project?from_search=true>

The Jane Austen Project starts like most sci-fi novels – there are two Very Serious Protagonists on a Very Serious Mission to bring back a Very Important Thing from the future. But luckily with Flynn’s sense of humor and wit the plot takes a turn into a genre-bending whirlwind into the land of historical fiction, romance, dystopian sci-fi, and fantasy. Rachel and Liam are two members of the Jane Austen Project who have been sent to 1815 to recover lost novel “The Watsons” of Jane Austen by infiltrating her circle and gaining her trust. But the best laid plans go askew and Rachel and Liam begin to find themselves forming attachments to their marks.

This novel is not only an enjoyable read – it is an interesting commentary on personal ethics, privilege, and how we value individuals. Whether it is the examination of Rachel’s inner conflict over keeping her Hippocratic oath to treat Jane Austen of the disease that is supposed to kill her or letting her die and suffer to preserve the cultural mystique around her – or the secret to Liam’s story of origin, The Jane Austen Project brings up many points of view – and allows readers to explore these ideas in a world that is totally unique.

One tidbit that stuck with me the most was how unflinching Flynn allowed the world of 1815 to be, the female characters in her novel discuss issues of war, slavery, poverty and degradation – far from the conversations of some of Austen’s characters who fret over things such as the price of muslin. Flynn rejects the idea that women of Austen’s world must fit into the mould of Austen’s characters – who are themselves often supposed to be ridiculous – which I found to be a refreshing spin. Flynn writes for smart, adept, and logical women, which makes her genre choice uniquely situated to discuss matters of history, sociology, and power within the safety of the sci-fi genre.


If given the chance, would you extend the lifespan of one of the most, if not the most, prolific female writers of all time? This it the question Dr. Rachel Katzman must grapple with when she and her colleague Liam travel back in time to 1815 England, two years before the death of Jane Austen at the young age of 41. Sent by the Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, their mission is straightforward: infiltrate Jane Austen’s inner circle, obtain a manuscript previously thought to have been destroyed, and diagnose the previously mysterious illness that will claim her life shortly thereafter. While their mission might seem simple enough, sit back and observe, Rachel and Liam find themselves in danger more than one time over the course of their journey. Liam, a consummate actor, attempts to pass himself off as a doctor with help from Rachel’s vast medical knowledge, but Rachel, on the other hand, struggles to fit into a social structure in which she continually finds herself and her opinion dismissed based on her gender.

Things become even more complicated for Rachel and Liam when genuine friendships start to form between themselves and the Austens, and they find themselves double guessing the choices they make and the impact those choices will have on the future they plan to return to. Add a few romantic relationships into the mix, and the life they’re navigating becomes even less clear cut than before. Can they remain passive bystanders as Jane Austen’s health begin to deteriorate? Will Rachel and Liam find that the goals of their mission, and the relationship between them becomes even more unclear when they only have each other to rely on?

Employing futuristic technologies to plant her main characters firmly in the past, Flynn crafts a well written novel full of mystery, drama, romance, and friendship. Fans of time travel and historical fiction will enjoy The Jane Austen Project (bonus enjoyment points for fans of Outlander as we get another female medical professional who teeters on the edge of being able to use her skills to save others and exposing herself as an outsider). While Flynn takes the liberty of imaging Austen’s interactions with strangers, she presents Austen in a way that seems believable and true to what little we know of the great authoress. This book is an enjoyable read from start to finish and poses questions about life and whose is worth saving.

Soniah Kamal, Unmarriageable, Ballentine Books, 2019.

Rating:★★★★ (Georgia Earley)

Unmarriageable is a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, featuring all of the characters that any Jane Austen fan already loves. In this book, Elizabeth becomes Alys and Darcy becomes Darsee, and it retains a lot of the original lightheartedness of the source material. For me, it seemed that the book kept too much of the original, and having just read Pride and Prejudice, it felt a bit repetitive. Of course, to make the novel modern, some things had to be altered slightly. Balls were changed to weddings, and walks about the country were changed into polo matches, but I still found myself easily predicting how things would turn out because I had read the plot already.

The parts that I enjoyed most tended to be the sections of the novel that diverged from Pride and Prejudice more. I enjoyed the cake decorating business that was added, and I enjoyed the epilogue that gave readers a bit of insight into the lives of the Binat sisters. It was also interesting to see how the author dealt with the Georgiana Darcy character. In this retelling, she has actually become pregnant and then has an abortion during her relationship with Wickaam, which creates more of a modern twist that makes the relationship more of a serious concern for Alys. This novel was able to tie in relevant social issues without seeming forced, much in the style of Austen herself.

Most of the downsides to this novel were found when it was trying too hard to be the original. At times it seemed that the narrative was struggling to reach the end, and it seemed strange that Alys, so adamantly against marriage, should break her own rules and settle down with Darcee, though readers knew that it was going to happen from the moment they met. I also struggled to sympathize with Mrs. Binat. She retains her my-daughters-must-be-married attitude, but oftentimes by coming off extremely rude to her own children. I wanted a bit of the silly nature of the original, but something just did not click in this version. However, the biggest plot hole in my reading was that everyone was so aware of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! Alys literally teaches the book to her class, and never once thinks about the fact that her entire family IS the Bennet family. At one point she claims that she could never fall for someone like Darcy while LITERALLY FALLING FOR SOMEONE NAMED DARSEE. Maybe this was intentional, but at some point I think I would have skipped ahead a few chapters to see my own fate. It just seemed too obvious.

Overall, this book feels like summer vacation. It’s warm and familiar and fun, but it’s not quite real life. Some of the dialogue is forced, some of the plot felt rushed, but in the end it’s impossible to put down because you just want to know how the author makes everything happen in a modern setting. I definitely learned a lot about Pakistani culture and especially food, and I had a fun time reading a cute love story, even if I knew where it was going the whole time.

Rating:★★★½ (Lauren Willis) 

As I read Soniah Kamal’s book, I really wanted to like it. Meeting Soniah before I read the novel positioned me to read it with very little criticism. She was extremely passionate about the writing of the book and the characters inside, so I was excited to read this retelling of Pride & Prejudice. As someone who likes Jane Austen a lot, I was hopeful for a modern-day retelling that would be enticing and a bit easier to read than the initial 19th Century novel.

I will say, I thought the novel was well written and the characters were funny. I loved the different twist on the names of Austen – Darcy to Darsee, Lydia to Lady, and Bennett to Binat. This made the book both easy to follow and deeply cultural. I also enjoyed certain scenes – like when Hammy mentions “reading” the scene where Darcy comes out of the lake at Pemberley to impress Darsee. Scenes like this were a pleasantly modern twist on important scenes in the original Austen.

However, I was slightly disappointed. I found myself predicting what was going to happen, and I don’t really like when I can do that in a book. I think, despite knowing it was a direct retelling, I wanted there to be some unique and creative elements in the story, and those were sparse.

Also, I felt like some of the characters seemed to be extreme versions of their originals, such as Alys, which made the ending seem a little bit stretched. For Alys to be as “anti-marriage” as she is, it was quite confusing to me that she was suddenly willing to give up her opinion. Similarly, Lydia seemed a bit more promiscuous in Unmarriageable than in Pride and Prejudice.

The most bizarre thing to me was simply how much the characters talked about Pride and Prejudice. Alys mentions it constantly, Darsee brings it up, and the characters all mention the movie in some capacity. It was so strange to me that these characters continually discussed the novel without realizing that they were LIVING IT.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. Most of my qualms come from the fact that I have just read Pride & Prejudice. I think that if I were to read this book first, I would want to read Austen’s novel. I also feel as if I were to read it a few months removed from reading the original novel, I would have not been able to predict quite as much, and I would have been drawn in a little bit more

Curtis Sittenfield, Eligible,  Penguin Random House, 2016.

(Allison Williams)

As an avid fan of romance novels (and we are talking about the raunchy kind), it has been a long time since I have fully read a novel of any other genre. However, Eligible definitely caught my attention and stood apart from the other suggested novels I was given. The first thing that stood out to me is how the main character, Liz, is a writer for a magazine and lives in New York, which is a similar lifestyle I hope to lead in the future. I was immediately able to relate to her because of this. While reading the book, though, I felt as though I was not like Liz at all. Actually, aside from similar career goals and being an older sibling, we did not see eye-to-eye on much. She is a very determined go-getter who always has to be doing something. She can never sit still and tends to make everyone’s business her own. I, personally, tend to keep to myself.

While I understand that this is a modern take on the novel, which I greatly appreciate, I felt that the book was a bit too progressive. I did not have a problem with the various progressive aspects; what I did find annoying was the massive amount of them thrown in throughout the novel to the point of becoming a distraction from the story as a whole. It felt as if Sittenfeld was more determined to write in all of these progressive elements rather than retelling the story. However, by the end of the novel all of the elements come together and, for the most part, makes sense.

Now then, for all my fellow romance novel enthusiasts, there is some good news. There are a few sex scenes between the characters, but unfortunately nothing too graphic. Although, it creates a nice atmosphere for the entirety of the novel. It was very interesting to read this novel and wonder how the author was going to make everything work, such as how Lydia leaving town with Ham could be a bad thing when Mrs. Bennet would have normally rejoiced such an event. Speaking of Mrs. Bennet, I hope you do not come into this book with the notion that you will like Mrs. Bennet. If that is the case, expect to be disappointed. Any admiration, love, or joy you may have found for Mrs. Bennet from the original novel or any other adaptation is completely erased. This version of Mrs. Bennet is very annoying and self-centered, as well as being stubborn, overly emotional, and often times unaccepting of the progressive events happening around her. She might be the most unlikable character, even over Caroline Bingley, which is truly saying something.

 Overall, I liked this book and would recommend it to those who are looking for more Pride and Prejudice in their lives. This book will make you fall in love with Mr. Darcy all over again.


Eligible is a bright and brilliant retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Modern should be taken quite literally, as it takes place between bustling New York and up-and-coming Cincinnati and comprises of yoga, workout and diet obsessions, artificial insemination, taboos, and LGBTQ+ characters. With almost 200 chapters and a large page count of nearly 500 pages, the book consists of witty dialogue that makes reading fast quick and satisfying.

The short chapters made Eligible an easy read and sparked a love for reading I haven’t felt for a while! Interesting characters and almost impossible drama occurrences made this book hard to put down, and the awkward dialogue between Sittenfeld’s Liz and Darcy felt endearing and similar to Austen’s Liz and Darcy couple. However, though the dialogue was funny, it also seemed superficial; perhaps this contributes to the very modernist approach of vapid and surface-deep expectation of modern/ millennial members of society. Either way, the Bennet sisters were clever and reminded me very much of growing up with my three sisters: insults flying constantly but knowing it should never be taken to heart and is purely another way of displaying the love that would so awkwardly be given or received otherwise.

In terms of the content of the chapters, it feels Eligible could really use a shaving down, especially considering the book’s page and chapter count. Random streams of consciousness or one to two-page chapters with no significance to the overall plot made the book feel a little dragged on at certain points. I’m absolutely sure that focalizing and getting rid of moments that seem superfluous will help the overall appeal of reading and understanding such a large book. However, despite the short chapters where I felt lost or missing something because of how out of place the information was, the overall read was entertaining and quick.

I will say, I haven’t read a novel this dramatic in a very long time. It seemed every page I turned something tragic or new or controversial struck up. It did make me feel like I discredited the book a bit because of how absurd things were or how Liz could never catch a break. However, I don’t think I would’ve liked the book or been entertained nearly as much if it weren’t for the constant plot twists. Sittenfeld is selling a modern retelling and it is quite modern in its ability to capture the sometimes foolish, illogical, and nonsensical society we live in.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was its representation and normalization of controversial things that should have already been normalized, but that our society struggles to come to terms with. For example, Jane’s artificial insemination was a part of the book I really enjoyed because it combined both the domestic feminists ideal of wanting to settle down and have a family, but the modern feminists’ idea that a woman doesn’t need a husband to be a mother. Just as well, making Ham (Wickham) transgender was a very interesting decision that I think was portrayed very well in the novel.

All in all, Eligible is a fun and experimentally interesting retelling of a very classic and reserved Regency England romance. The characters, though development of them took a bit longer than my liking, were witty and creative and handled their modern world and lifestyle with ease and flair. Turned off a bit by it being a ‘modern’ retelling, I was not disappointed by how wacky and laughable Sittenfeld made The Bennet’s world become and I still felt the very Austen satire throughout the novel that we feel in Pride and Prejudice.

(Ariel Watt)

What do Jane Austen’s Regency era England and The Bachelor reality TV show have in common? A great deal, according to Curtis Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld’s 2016 novel Eligible uproots Austen’s most famous family, the Bennets, and situates them in modern day Cincinnati where reality TV stars and Crossfit reign. While Sittenfeld’s modern updates skillfully translate the nuances of Pride and Prejudice’s endearing characters, one thing remains true for both: Mrs. Bennet’s obsession with marrying her five daughters off.

Sittenfield carefully trained a modern eye on the original text, making sure that today’s readers understand Austen’s characters the same way her audiences did. Kitty and Lydia’s annoying traits are communicated through their diet and gym obsession, Jane’s calm and mild demeanor is translated through her yoga practice, Mary’s reclusion is painted through her academic superiority, and Elizabeth’s neutrality is given the romantic comedy treatment of being the girl who is “just the right combination” of her surrounding counterparts. Rulers of the British class systems give way to the modern day “eligible bachelor” hierarchy of doctors and tech magnates in Sittenfeld’s male characters. Although the dialogue can come across as a bit too pandering to modern audiences, Sittenfeld makes her points about each character abundantly clear. With the removal of the beautiful and romantic prose Austen is so famous for, the soft satirical voice she is also praised for rings louder and tad shrill in Sittenfeld’s take.

Sittenfeld does, however, give modern audiences something Austen and her time were glaringly missing; color. She not only acknowledges modern issues of sexuality, feminism, racism, politics and other issues considered taboo to address in a novel during Austen’s time. The blinders one must wear when reading Pride and Prejudice are removed and a little light is let in on some of these issues. Eligible indulges those familiar with Pride and Prejudice while also serving as a possible introduction to Austen’s world for those unfamiliar.

Ibi Zoboi, Pride, Balzer + Bray, 2018.

(Hannah Chalker)

Ibi Zoboi’s modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice reimagines the classical characters from Austen’s novel as African American youths living in Zuri’s “ghetto” community. The major themes from the classic novel are still present, such as class and wealth differences.

Rather than have letters, Zoboi incorporates poetry into the novel. These poems give us a deeper insight of the Elizabeth Bennet character, Zuri Beniteze. I personally found myself disliking Zuri; I found her annoying and harsh more so than Elizabeth Bennet. Perhaps because this novel was more straightforward than Jane Austen’s text, I’m not sure. I actually liked Darius Darcy more than I liked Mr. Darcy. In turn I also liked Darius more than I liked Zuri. I found the bantering more endearing in Pride than Pride and Prejudice. This is probably because they are closer in age. I found that I enjoyed Darcy and Bingley’s characters more as brothers than I thought I would. I saw them still as the polar opposites that rounded the other out.

While I found it to be an enjoyable retelling, I couldn’t connect with the characters as much as I could in the original. I think I would like to explore more retellings in order to have a something to compare this retelling to.

Rating:★★★★ (Katie Graham)

Each borough in New York City has a unique sense of place, meaning each neighborhood has its own physical characteristics and set of values tied to the area. It is also no secret that New Yorkers have a sense of pride in their neighborhoods. Seventeen-year-old Zuri Benitez is no exception. Zuri takes immense pride in where she comes from and stands up for her family values. It comes as no surprise that when her Bushwick neighborhood starts to change as a result of gentrification that she is baffled by what she feels like a personal attack on her world. When a wealthy family renovates a mansion across the street from her rundown apartment building, Zuri realizes that the Bushwick she is proud of is starting to slip away.

In a clever coming-of-age story, Zuri learns that home is less of a physical place than it is a feeling of inclusivity and love. When she and her family are forced out of Bushwick by real estate developers, she is forced to come to terms with forging her place in the world. Her desire to attend Howard University demonstrates her passion for her culture and willingness to venture beyond Bushwick in order to one day give back to her community. However, it takes her love-hate interest, Darius to remove her prejudices towards the outside world that is slowly closing in on Zuri, and closing out her childhood. Zuri finds that her sense of place is not limited to the Bushwick neighborhood. Zuri becomes representative of a class of young African American women searching for their place in a changing America. The novel leaves readers hopeful for Zuri’s future and for a decline of prejudice in society overall.

Zoboi gives Austen’s Pride and Prejudice a new sense of place in Brooklyn. In unusual fashion for an Austen adaptation, Zoboi uses Pride and Prejudice as a vehicle for her own socio-political message. She uses Austen’s ideas as an outline to frame a modern story complete with Zoboi’s own takes. She presents the realities of gentrification through the minority perspective to address racial and class prejudices in a dynamic political climate. Although the unlikely love story between Zuri and Darius may seem cliché as a result of the novel’s conventions as an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the issues that the young couple face and overcome are as relevant to modern romantics as they were to Austen’s original audience. Zoboi neatly weaves modern social issues like race and gentrification with Austen’s issues from Pride and Prejudice – class and a woman’s sense of place in the world.

(Grace Griffith) In a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Ibi Zoboi’s book Pride has all the potential to be a hit, but ultimately falls flat as a retelling and book itself. I appreciate the story BEHIND the actual story in this novel, and that is the gentrification of black neighborhoods due to rich people moving in/property taxes skyrocketing, and I do like that the author chose to tackle that issue in an entertaining way. Through reading the story, one begins to feel deeply for the main family, the Benitez’s, and then realizing that this is happening all over parts of America is really eye opening and sad. That was the part of the novel that I DID enjoy, and I also liked a few of the characters. This book had good bones, but the meat in the middle did not really do it for me.

My biggest issue with this book is that the author did not make the main characters, Zuri and Darius, likable in the slightest! I am not really sure if this was intentional, it seems like it had to be due to the fact that they were truly so horrible I couldn’t believe that any author would make them like that just through her writing in general. Zuri was extremely judgmental, kind of hypocritical, and overall one of the least likable female characters I have ever experienced through reading…and that is saying a lot. Her Elizabeth “wit” and pride did not translate well in this book. Darius was extremely bland….and he did not seem to have much character development in the way that Darcy did in Pride and Prejudice. Overall, these characters were just a full-blown mess.

Another issue that I had with the novel was how many different fights that Darius and Zuri got in….I know that Elizabeth and Darcy take some time to decide they like each other, but once they do that was kind of it. In this book, however, once the characters admit they like each other they STILL have these massive fights, and the fights don’t get resolved very maturely. It just kind of seemed like the author was beating a dead horse a little bit when trying to prove that they had their differences…it did not work well for me.

Some things that saved this novel were: the overall message, some of the supporting characters, and the summery feeling that I got when reading it. Overall I do think that it was alright, but I would not recommend it to anyone in search of a new book to read.

Rating:★★★★ (Rebookah Bookerson)

I think Pride brings genuine importance to the Pride and Prejudice world. There’s a certain genius in Ibi Zoboi’s remix which educates non-marginalized people about racial and cultural tensions in America through it’s alignment with a text concerning poorer white people in England— and I applaud her for how she did the job. And not to say that her explicitly stated intention was to design a tool to educate us… haha. But reading this book made me feel able to be educated about racial differences in America while simultaneously be able to enjoy it’s parallels between Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and I very much appreciated it.

Headstrong character Zuri Benitez pushes through a plot which explores the challenges a multiracial American female would face while living in the city, something white Jane Austen fans or Pride and Prejudice readers cannot know about. And Zuri has a similar fierceness which easily translates to the heroine Elizabeth Bennett. Though each heroine’s challenges are different, they both share attitudes which attract trouble and are soiled with pride… And in already knowing Elizabeth’s character, I can imagine Zuri’s very forward attitude as suitable for the environment around her. However (!) I’m relying on my ignorance of experiencing life as a marginalized identity to support this character’s accurate translation to Elizabeth, so I wonder what someone else would think of Zuri? Is she too similar to a caricature of a Afro-Latinx woman? Does her behavior and/or temperament actually translate to Elizabeth’s?

And to be honest, I might have been distracted by the complex exploration of so many themes deserving of attention (and super sucked into the neighborhood of Bushwick) to fully notice what the book lacked in character development. I’ll admit that the pace was a bit too fast to properly establish the relationship between the Elizabeth and Darcy characters, Zuri and Darius, for example, which is definitely outshined by the story’s importance of setting, food, and— setting. I feel unsatisfied in comparison to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy… until I remember that this is a story trying to translate THAT relationship into a modern teenage romance and perhaps would never satisfy my craving, after all.

Anyway, this is a worthwhile read because of the many ways in which it succeeds.