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Unmarriageable

by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal X
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
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  • Published:
    Jan 2019, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Power Reviewer
Betty Taylor

It is a truth universally acknowledged...
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal.” – the opening sentence of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen

This delightful Pakistani re-telling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE starts out with ninth-grade teacher Alys Binat asking her female students to rewrite the opening sentence of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Their writings nakedly reveal their societal status and how they have been taught that marriage is their ultimate goal.

Alys’ heart sinks each year as her students, with their brilliant minds, never consider exploring the world and paving their own ways through life instead of seeing “marrying young and well” as their only options. Yet each year she uses the reading of Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to show how the mother and the protagonist start out with similar views and goals and where and why they begin to separate in those views.

Alys Binat says she will never marry but, like Elizabeth Bennett, life just did not turn out that way when Darsee entered her life. Kamal manipulated the characters’ names to somewhat match the name of the characters in the classic telling. Some of the nicknames were hilarious – Rum, Gin, Hammy, Dracula. I especially loved the characters of Sherry Looclus (Charlotte Lucas) and Farhat Kaleen (Mr. Collins). Sherry is the kind of friend you want by your side through good and bad. The story was utterly delightful and the writing impeccable.

Charming and funny with relatable characters, this unique re-telling of the classic story PRIDE AND PREJUDICE looks at love, sisterhood, class, and marriage with a fresh twist. Kamal provided awesome insight into human relationships, especially within the Binat family of five daughters and their parents. (“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.”) Some conversations are pretty much universal, heard in families whatever the culture may be. Example: “Both of you, shut up,” Mrs. Binat said. “For God’s sake, is this why I went through your pregnancies and labor pains and nursed you both and gave myself stretch marks and saggy breasts? So that you can grow up and be bad sisters? How many times must I tell you: Be nice to each other, love each other, for at the end of the day, siblings are all you have.” Tell me you haven’t heard some version of that from your own mother.

I enjoyed the historical tidbits about the partitioning of Pakistan and India and the involvement of the English empire. I suspect she used much farce in her descriptions of modern-day Pakistani culture. A truly delightful story. I end with a quote from the book that I think should be highlighted: “We know that friends can be made anywhere and everywhere, regardless of race or religion.”.
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