By: Soniah Kamal
Narrated by: Soniah Kamal
Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
Release date: 01-22-19
Penguin Random House Audio | Random House Audio
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
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’ lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful – and single – entrepreneur.
But Bungles’ 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.
This retelling of Austen’s P & P in the Pakistan of the late 20th century (date inferred). The upper-echelon of Pakistani society of that period, as written by Kamal; is so much like the British Regency that it’s the perfect locale in which to place a Regency novel. It may be more Regency than Regency England. But, Kamal has also updated the story quite nicely; examining the tension between different cultures and a Pakistan poised on the brink of some change, maybe a truly separate cultural identity that would of course have taken time to develop after partition and years of political unrest. I am not knowledgeable enough about Pakistan to understand what is coming, it is just apparent that something is changing. The British influence after of hundreds of years of colonization, and the way marriages were still arranged, women’s honor protected, and social classes is a great setting for adaptation. What does it say about colonialism in general, and British colonialism in particular, that so many years after the end of the occupation, the culture of a place is irreparably altered?
There are several aspects of the story that stood out for me:
- the arrangement of marriages and the pressures on women to marry according to their parents’ wishes, remain virgins until marriage, have children and forgo education;
- the parallel between Kamal’s Binats and Austen’s Bennets: both families are reduced in circumstances although not for the same reasons. However, they are still from a well-known family and are able, because of this, to mix with the upper echelons. Unfortunately they lack both the financial abilities to dress the part and, in some instances, the manners, to fit in. Although, in some instances in this the manners are false and do not truly represent the person pretending to them.
The characters have a nearly one to one correspondence. There are a few differences, I found the character based on Lydia Bennet was not only unintelligent and promiscuous but quite mean.
I enjoyed the character based on Reverend Collins ( Kaleen a widower with children) because Kamal looks at a question I have often wondered about when reading or watching P&P: why Collins did not offer for Mary, the most sanctimonious Bennet daughter? To me it always seemed it would have been the perfect match. But Kamal gave a well-reasoned rationale for Collins’s (Kaleen’s) bypassing of Mary (Mari).
The author as narrator was also pleasant and, though occasionally a trifle stilted was able to give an authentic accent and knows her subject.
This is an excellent adaptation and even a little more fun than the original. It gave me a glimpse into a place and culture with which I am unfamiliar but which is suited to a translation of one of my favorite novels.