You probably know that Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. I just love Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy. When I saw a diverse P&P retelling, I knew I had to read it. Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable is a retelling of Jane Austen’s classic set in modern-day Pakistan, and I thought it was a great take on a timeless story.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s 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.
I love the way Unmarriageable kicked off – with our main character, Alys, having her students rewrite that famous first line of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged than a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” I thought it set the tone really well for this to not only be a modern version of the story, but one that emphasized the feminist tone of the story. (Yes, Pride and Prejudice is feminist – I wrote an entire paper on it in grad school.)
Like I said, I love Pride and Prejudice, so I was pretty much guaranteed to gravitate towards any retellings. I thought this setting in particular lends itself really well to Austen’s story. Arranged marriages, and the emphasis on marriage, especially for women and girls, play a huge role in both regency England and modern Pakistan. It was really interesting to see the similarities there, and it worked well for the story.
The characters were great representations of the classic characters they are based off of. They are named similarly (for example, Austen’s Mr. Darcy is Darsee in Unmarriageable), so it’s easy to see the parallels, which is nice. I particularly liked Alys (Lizzie). She is a very strong character, which immediately made me want to root for her.
Personally, I wasn’t a massive fan of the writing, unfortunately. It isn’t bad by any means, it just didn’t speak to me. But hey, everyone has different tastes, and I can see a lot of people loving it. My one complaint, however, is that this book just felt overly long. I know Pride and Prejudice is a long book, but I think because this is contemporary, it just seemed like it dragged a bit. Not a major downside, but it might be something to note if you were expecting a quick, contemporary romance.
★★★☆☆ – I think Unmarriageable was a fun take on a classic. I really appreciated seeing a diverse take on one of my favorite novels. I think it’s a fun way to not only introduce a classic story to new readers, as well as great addition to diversity in contemporary romance.
Unmarriageable will be available in bookstores January 22. You can preorder a copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Unmarriageable as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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