Author: Soniah Kamal
Format: Paperback/eBook, 354 pages
Publication: Jan. 229, 2019 by Ballantine
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Wine Glass
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.
“Just remember,” Alys said quietly, “there is more to life than getting married and having children.”
Set in Pakistan in 2000-01, Unmarriageable, was a fun, thoughtful retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Alys is our Elizabeth Bennet, the Binat family name is old and respected but when Alys' father is swindled by his brother, they fall to genteel poverty. Alys and her older sister Jena become teachers to help the family out and when readers enter the story, Alys is teaching Pride and Prejudice to her 9th grade all girls class. This led to a great beginning where the author was able to show the similarities between English Pride and Prejudice culture and the current Pakistani culture Alys and her sisters were experiencing.
“You can afford to be undiplomatic,”Alys said. “People let people like you get away with anything.”
“You know what your glaring fault is?” Darsee said.
Alys glared at him. “Do tell.”
“You take great pride in hearing only what you want to hear, and then you're smug about your interpretation.”
All the hallmarks of Pride and Prejudice is known and enjoyed for are reworked into this book, Alys overhearing Valentine Darsee speak ill of her sets off the contentious but can't quite leave each other alone sparking relationship reader's will enjoy. Alys and Darsee have meaningful engagements that don't waste their time on the page as they travail through interacting and learning about each other.
“O'Connor, Austen, Alcott, Wharton. Characters' emotions and situations are universally applicable across cultures, whether you're wearing an empire dress, shalwar kurta, or kimono.”
This follows very closely to the outline of its inspiration, the Binat (Bennet) sisters and mother just about steal the show with their family antics and relationship. Wickaam makes his dastardly appearance and Alys' bestfriend Sherry (Charlotte) has a strong showing, I thought this author gave the character an even stronger performance and reworked her into someone who will have the reader more empathetic and understanding towards. There were also some references and Easter eggs of Austen's other works that were delightful to find.
“[...] Never in my life had I thought anyone would refuse to marry me. Never had I imagined that what I was bringing to the table would not outweigh my flaws. Time had turned me into that person, but that is not who I want to be. Sometimes we lose sight of ourselves, but you see me, Alys, and you force me to see myself.”
I thought the first half flowed a bit better than the second, until more towards the ending; there were some time gaps and more Binat family than Darsee and Alys. What the star of the novel was though, how people no matter their religion or culture just want to live, love, be happy, and get our mothers off our backs. This was also great for individuals to have some introduction to Pakistani culture and recommend some books that might have missed more Western focused readers. Alys thinks in the book: It was a truth universally acknowledged, Alys suddenly thought with a smile, that people enter our lives in order to recommend reads. Let me recommend this one to you all.