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Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
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Unmarriageable (edition 2019)

by Soniah Kamal

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2724070,591 (3.85)33
"In this 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 in 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 start having children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire them to dream of more. When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for eligible--and rich--bachelors, certain that their luck is about to change. On the first night of the festivities, Alys's lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of one of the most eligible bachelors. But his 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. But 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"--… (more)
Member:Rose9929
Title:Unmarriageable
Authors:Soniah Kamal
Info:Ballantine Books, Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:to-read

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Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

  1. 00
    Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Both books are inspired by Austen's Pride & Prejudice and are set in Muslim communities.
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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan... I've long felt that the only way to pull off a beat-for-beat Pride & Prejudice update is to set it in a place where marrying above your station can make a meaningful difference in a woman's life. Setting it in Pakistan in the year 2000 is *chef's kiss*. You get the mother-obsessed-with-marriage without it being weird and out of place. Billionaire boyfriend books aside, the relationship between Alysba and Darsee reads like a real Pride & Prejudice set in "modern" times. Loved how the story was updated and all the references to books scattered throughout (I already ordered a copy of Sunlight on a Broken Column by Attia Hossain).

One random aside, there are some jarring head-hopping scenes where the narrative shifts from the speaker to an omniscient narrator that tells you a different character's thoughts or backstory. I'm not sure if this is a call-back to Austen, or a writerly conceit, but it threw me out of the story a few times. ( )
  emperatrix | Aug 30, 2020 |
Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable is an warm story about sisterhood and friendship, as well as a love letter to Pride and Prejudice. The five Binat sisters live in Dilipabad, a small Pakistani town just across the Indian border from Amritsar (the setting of the Bollywood spinoff Bride and Prejudice. Is that not how everyone learns geography?). A family estrangement has left their branch struggling, unable to live as they used to, so the older girls teach English, while Mrs. Binat schemes about beautification to catch wealthy husbands. Teenage Lady flirts with everyone, Mari is a pedantic Quran reader, and youngest sister Qitty is chubby and forgotten. This has everything we love in P&P, with a distinctly Pakistani style.

Jena and Alys are both over 30, a successful updating of the Bennet sisters’ impoverished gentry background, especially since handsome Bungles is only 25. This is exactly what Bingley sisters and gossipy aunties will turn into a massive mismatch and social disaster, when it’s really a tiny obstacle for a loving marriage. The Binat sisters are English teachers at the local girls’ school, which is respectable if not impressive employment, even if Alys keeps getting scolded for running her mouth in class and leading her students to question their roles as wives-to-be.

Alys and her friends have discussions about literature in translation and colonialism. (So yes, I immediately requested all the books that Alys buys in Lahore from my library. Naturally.) There are also some comments on the joys of rereading Pride and Prejudice, which make this feel like a real love letter to Jane Austen, and Unmarriageable characters discuss their favorite Austen characters and Jane’s view of marriage. I particularly enjoyed when Annie, a chronically ill former model with a secret Nigerian boyfriend, talks about how mild and silent Anne de Burgh is. But, if you’ve read P&P, though, how do you trust a Jeorgeullah Wickaam? Alys, don’t be distracted by a handsome face!

The question of marriage and finances is a central part of Austen’s work, but I’m not sure how well the impoverished-family works as a plot device or character background right now. Current American morality sees poverty as a temporary setback to be overcome with hard work, and also considers laziness is an unforgivable personality failing. So, a poor young woman is no longer an unfortunate victim of circumstance, but a lazy taker. BOOTSTRAPS, BENNETS! Ugh. I kind of hate everything right now, and I double hate that our miserable news cycle leaks into my fiction reading.

Sherry Looclus, Alys’ coworker and friend, is even older and even more worried about money than the Binat girls. (OH! And Sir Lucas becomes Haji Looclus, a clever reimagining which took me a while to get. I just figured Haji was his first name, I didn’t realize he’d claimed the title of a Muslim who’s completed the Mecca pilgrimage.) Although it’s easy to see Mr. Collins as a ridiculous figure, we can also see how happy Sherry is to get out of her parents’ house (to fly the pigeon coop, maybe?), to mother her lovely step-children, and to have enough money that she can quit the girls’ school and work on her own projects. Of course she doesn’t have a love match, and Kaleen is still no Darsee, but you can see a partnership here.

Unmarriageable was such a great story that I forced myself to slow down reading it. I loved the revisions of familiar characters in a new setting. This novel is full of Pakistani flavor, but it’s still quite accessible to anyone with a gossipy auntie or a handsome crush.

( )
  TheFictionAddiction | Aug 12, 2020 |
Initially put off by the prose style, I was on the verge abandoning this when something clicked -- and I ended up enjoying this a lot. It successfully brings something new to a very familiar story.

For most of the novel, it is quite believable that Alys Binat, who has spent a decade teaching English literature and knows Austen’s novels well, doesn’t recognise all the Pride and Prejudice parallels suddenly popping up in her own life. There are enough differences in the names, personalities and circumstances of her family and friends. Moreover, women in turn of the century Pakistan have opportunities for careers and independence that Austen’s heroines lacked, which informs Alys’s advice to her younger sisters as well as her own dreams for the future.

The closest Alys comes to thinking of any of them as Austen characters is a moment when, watching her sister’s unfolding romance, Alys is reminded of similarity with Sense and Sensibility. When her best friend asks her which character she’d be in a book, she confidently says: “I’m the omniscient narrator and observer in Austen’s novels.”

However: Darsee and Wickaam? Really? And no one comments on the similarities of their names?

There was potential for Unmarriageable to expand upon the romance between Alys and Darsee a bit more, rather than echoing the final beats of Pride and Prejudice quite so closely -- but that’s a minor quibble. On the whole, I was impressed.

“Elizabeth Bennet,” Alys said, “had to marry Fitzwilliam Darcy, and he her, because Jane Austen, their creator-god, orchestrated it so. And there would be no Charlotte Lucas today because marrying for financial security is no longer the only choice she’d have. Thankfully we don’t live in a novel, and in real life if I met someone as stuck-up as Mr Darcy, I’d tell him to pack his bags, because there would be nothing that could endear me to such a snob, least of all the size of his estate. My views would frighten away a man like Mr Darcy, who ultimately wants a feisty wife but also one who knows her own place --” ( )
  Herenya | Aug 2, 2020 |
A wonderful current day version of Prise and Predjudice. This one taking place in Pakistan. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book to get the true feel of the story. Beautiful accents and fun descriptions of the ball and wedding. Discrimination and class issues run rampant. Sadly, even today we continue to suffer situations that took place centuries ago. ( )
  whybehave2002 | Jul 2, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This Pakistan Pride and Prejudice is a very close adaptation of the original. I find the comforting and familiar plot points in a re-telling free my to understanding and relating to a new-to-me culture.

My main complaints were first the fairly non-stop fat shaming of sister Qitty, which felt like it was coming from the author, rather than the mean-spiritedness of the characters.

My second problem was something that seems to have also bothered another reviewer, which is that English-teacher Alys (the Elizabeth Bennet main character), who is literally teaching P & P when we meet her, never notices the similarities in her and family's story to Jane Austen's novel. To have the character be that familiar with the book and not remark upon the coincidentally similar names and situations happening within her own story definitely took me out of it.

A quick and fun enough read for Austen fans, but perhaps not self-aware enough to satisfy a true Austenite. ( )
  jenevolves | Jun 15, 2020 |
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Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Mansoor Wasti,
friend, love, partner,
and
Baraaq, Indus, Miraage,
heart, soul, life
First words
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.
Quotations
An unmarried woman advocating pursuits outside the house might as well be a witch spreading anarchy and licentiousness.
"But, Miss," Tahira said hesitantly, "what's the purpose of life without children?"
"The same purpose as there would be with children—to be a good human being and contribute to society."
"I don't believe it's for everyone. Marriage should be a part of life and not life."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a good girl ought to keep her mouth shut about whether she's been keeping her legs shut."
Mrs. Binat glowed as moneyed folk flitted around.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"In this 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 in 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 start having children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire them to dream of more. When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for eligible--and rich--bachelors, certain that their luck is about to change. On the first night of the festivities, Alys's lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of one of the most eligible bachelors. But his 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. But 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"--

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