Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
A Feminist in the Medieval Age – Addie LaRue
“Adeline has decided she would rather be a tree, like Estele. If she must grow roots, she would rather be left to flourish wild instead of pruned, would rather stand alone, allowed to grow beneath the open sky.”
The quaint, peaceful, French village of the eighteenth century is captivatingly written by V. E. Schwab, setting up an intriguing premise, but what really drew me into The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is its protagonist, Addie LaRue. A strong-willed, independent young woman, Addie, is forced into an arranged marriage with a man she hardly cares about. I feel deeply sympathetic for her situation, and I admire her determination to preserve her freedom. In modern terms, she can be described as a feminist in the medieval age. Her fear of being trapped by a life of domesticity, housekeeping, raising children, looking after her husband, is sure to resonate with countless women today.
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.