Unmarriageable: A Novel

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Unmarriageable is a Pakistani retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The story follows Alysba Binat, an English teacher, and is set in 2000 in the quaint town of Dilipabad. Alys is a 31-year-old single woman and a well-read, forward-thinking feminist who often gets in trouble with the school principal, her students, and her mother because of her views. She teaches English literature alongside regional Pakistani literature, and her literary conversations throughout the book with Valentine Darsee, her prospective love interest, were one of the most interesting things about the book.

Any reader familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will know the basic plot, and Austen’s story has suffered countless retellings, adaptations, and sequels from well-meaning, self-described bibliophiles. It is one of the most-loved stories of all time, and character archetypes constructed in Pride and Prejudice can be found throughout Austen’s other works as well as throughout literature as a whole. The author, and by extension the main character, seems familiar with Austen’s other works beyond Pride and Prejudice, which works in this book’s favor.

Compared with its source material, Unmarriageable is a solid retelling, but my main gripe was that it was set in the modern day. While I am familiar with the Pride and Prejudice storyline, I am not familiar with Pakistani values and traditions. Framing a story that is supposed to take place in 2000 around a novel written in 1813 makes the values portrayed in the book appear regressive to those unfamiliar with them. That the main character constantly scorns those values and points out the flaws in living a life according to tradition just adds fuel to the fire. Alys sees her friend Sherry marry late in life and settle into a role as a wife and mother, but she is still unconvinced she can be truly happy.

There are plenty of sweet, laugh-out-loud moments in Unmarriageable, and held against other fan-fiction style retellings and sequels, the book stands on its own. I found it ironic and somewhat humorous that a fictional character who knew Pride and Prejudice quite well never realized in the entirety of the book that her life was mirroring Pride and Prejudice, from the quantity of her siblings and their names to the way she met her love interest.

Readers who enjoy Jane Austen will enjoy Unmarriageable. However, if you want to read a book that balances a modern life with traditional values more equitably, check out My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma or A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza.


Reviewed By:

Author Soniah Kamal
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 352 pages
Publisher Ballantine Books
Publish Date 2019-01-15
ISBN 9781524799717
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue Mar-19
Category Modern Literature
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