Summary and book reviews of Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable

by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal X
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2019, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

In this one-of-a-kind retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, 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.

Chapter 1

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.

When Alysba Binat began working at age twenty as the English-­literature teacher at the British School of Dilipabad, she had thought it would be a temporary solution to the sudden turn of fortune that had seen Mr. Barkat "Bark" Binat and Mrs. Khushboo "Pinkie" Binat and their five daughters—­Jenazba, Alysba, Marizba, Qittyara, and Lady—­move from big-­city Lahore to backwater Dilipabad. But here she was, ten years later, thirty years old, and still in the job she'd grown to love despite its challenges. Her new batch of ninth-­graders was starting Pride and Prejudice, and their first homework had been to rewrite the opening sentence of Jane Austen's novel, always a fun activity and a good way for her to get to know her students better.

After Alys took attendance, she opened a fresh...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Unmarriageable is far more than a connect-the-dots retelling of Pride and Prejudice with 2001 Pakistan standing in for Regency England and shalwar khameez substituted for corsets and petticoats. In between the moments of broad humor, Kamal offers many moments of real insight into a culture where class, reputation and marriageability are still paramount considerations...continued

Full Review (666 words).

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

NPR
Unmarriagable seems at first glance like a par-for-the-course retelling...But if you're tempted to look further...[the novel] succeeds in being both a deliciously readable romantic comedy and a commentary on class in post-colonial, post-partition Pakistan...ultimately Unmarriageable manages to be both a fun, page-turning romp and a thought-provoking look at the class-obsessed strata of Pakistani society.

Shelf Awareness
Starred Review. Distinctly entertaining...Kamal uses her comedy of manners, infused with tender humor, to comment on the sorry state of affairs for too many young women from this part of the Indian subcontinent...If Jane Austen lived in modern-day Pakistan, this is the version of Pride and Prejudice she might have written.

Kirkus Reviews
Kamal's version has its flaws, but overall it's a delicious book, something to sink your teeth into.

Booklist
This love letter to Austen reexamines sisterhood, society, and marriage in Pakistani culture and includes a fleshed-out epilogue that will satisfy today's readers.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. [A] funny, sometimes romantic, often thought-provoking glimpse into Pakistani culture, one which adroitly illustrates the double standards women face when navigating sex, love, and marriage. This is a must-read for devout Austenites.

Library Journal
Starred Review. The dialog sparkles with sharp humor, which will dazzle readers with counterparts of the original...Austen devotees will rejoice in this respectful cross-cultural update of a beloved classic.

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Recent Reinterpretations of Pride and Prejudice

Cover of Eligible by Curtis SittenfeldUnmarriageable might be the first version of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, but it's hardly the only creative retelling of this classic novel. Fortunately for fans of Jane Austen, several other imaginative reworkings of her beloved novel have been published recently - perhaps a Jane Austen book club could tackle any or all of these and compare different versions of Austen's timeless classic!

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
HarperCollins' The Austen Project presents Austen's six classic novels, reinvented by popular contemporary authors. In Eligible, Sittenfeld (best known for her novel Prep) sets Pride and Prejudice in contemporary Cincinnati and infuses it with plenty of modern-day trials and tribulations, from reality TV to ...

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