by Soniah Kamal
What is it about revisiting our favorite story?
Be it movie, book, fairy tale, particular episode of The West Wing or Scrubs.
There is something so wonderful about rereading/watching something you love.
I’ve mentioned before that I love retellings of stories when they are done well.
Clueless is Emma, She’s the Man is Twelfth Night, The Lion King and Sons of Anarchy are Hamlet, 10 Things I Hate About You is Taming of the Shrew, Easy A is The Scarlet Letter, and there are so many more.
Unmarriageable is one of those retellings done exceptionally well.
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by Soniah Kamal
Alys Binat has sworn never to marry—until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider.
A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and have children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire the girls to dream of more.
When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat, certain that their luck is about to change, excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for rich, eligible bachelors. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. As the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal—and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.
Told with wry wit and colorful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood.
With retellings, I thoroughly enjoy the game of identifying the new characters that correspond with the characters I know. It’s not just the matching and aligning; I also love when an author makes those well-known characters his or her own. Ms. Kamal does this very well. The characters are modernized and set in a new culture and still retain the importance of the known and the adaptation. This is not just Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy plunked down in Lahore, Pakistan; this is a Pakistani Darsee who still exudes the pride, prejudices, misunderstandings, and character growth that we know, expect, and truly love. Alys’ Elizabeth is outspoken, incredibly smart, fiercely loyal, stubborn, prejudiced, and also grows throughout the book – just as she should.
Nothing about this book is boring, though it is a familiar story. Ms. Kamal’s infusion of all things Pakistani – food, clothing, cultural norms – make this book an amazing read by immersing the reader into her culture and never lightening up. She does not let us feel like these are English characters set in Pakistan. No. These are truly Pakistani characters going about their lives, which happen to coincide with a story written by an Englishwoman.
The Final Verdict
My rating: 4.5 stars
Would I recommend? Yes
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