I was searching the library catalogue for Pride and Prejudice (after reading Rosie’s review) when I came upon this gem. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal intrigued me with its beautiful cover but more so with its premise. A Pakistani love-story based off of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Sign me up! And while I did have reservations as to the implications of comparing the early 2000s in Pakistan with the 1800s in England (suggesting perhaps that Pakistani culture was backwards/unadvanced?) I ended up loving this book so much that I finished it in one day.
Alysba Binat and her sister Jena are English teachers in small-town Dilipabad. After their father’s brother swindled them out of their inheritance, and started to spread vicious rumours, the Binat family had to learn to make-do. Unfortunately for Mrs. Binat, this means the prospect of finding suitable husbands for her five daughters an almost impossible task. Jena is too kind-hearted to use Mrs. Binat’s techniques for grabbing a husband. Qitty, too fat, Lady too flirtatious, and Mari too religious. And worse of them all for Mrs. Binat, Alys, who seems perfectly happy living the rest of her life as an English schoolteacher, teaching her girls to dream of more than just marriage.
The story begins with the Binat family receiving a wedding invitation. Mrs. Binat is elated. Her luck has finally turned, and she can finally find a man for Alys and Jena, who, at 31 and 33, are basically spinsters. At the wedding, Jena meets Fahad “Bungles” Bingla. Alys is happy for her sister, especially as Mrs. Binat has predicted a proposal for the very next day. Then Alys hears Bugles’ friend, Valentine Darsee, insult her and is outraged at his arrogance. What follows, I’m sure you can guess.
Unmarriageable was an absolute delight to read. Soniah Kamal’s charming revision on the timeless classic is full of wit, comedy, and thought-provoking commentary into Pakistani culture without being down-right critical. Each Binat sister gets a character arc, and the romance aspect is not skipped out on either. My favourite part of the whole book, however, is how steeped everything is in Pakistani culture. It doesn’t feel forced at all, and I chuckled at every little detail that only a Pakistani author could think to include.
Overall, Unmarriageable gets a 9.5/10. The only reason there’s no full mark is that romance isn’t really my genre, and I can’t see myself reading this over and over again. I will still strongly recommend this to everyone I know, Pakistani or not!
P.S. I’m sorry for the super-long review!! I couldn’t help it!!