“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.”
This is the belief that Alys Binat, second of five daughters and a literature teacher, faces in her students, girls who will likely marry instead of finishing school. That’s just how things are in Pakistan in the early 2000s, but Alys hopes to influence some of her students, nonetheless. Then her family is invited to the society wedding of the year, and her mother sees it as the perfect opportunity to showcase her five daughters.
The eldest, sweet Jena, catches the eye of “Bungles” Bingla, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Mrs. Binat is convinced a proposal is imminent. Alys and her best friend, Sherry, who is determined to marry so she can escape her home life, watch in amusement—and horror—as Aly’s mom and other three sisters—uber-religious Mari, flighty Lady, and artistic Qitty—make a less than stellar impression on Bungles’ sisters and very rich Valentine Darsee, his best friend. Alys hears Darsee’s scathing remarks about her and writes him off as a jerk.
But fate—and Jena and Bungles’ romance—keep throwing Alys and Darsee back into proximity, and Alys discovers the haughty man might not be quite as horrible as she thought. When Lady’s antics destroy the Binat family’s chances of ever holding their heads up in public, no one can save them. Except, maybe, Mr. Darsee.
Fact: I love Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen had a phenomenal insight into people and portrayed them very well. Fact: I know basically nothing about Pakistani culture.
Unmarriageable is a close re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, but it’s still its own story. The characters’ names made me laugh—Bungles—but there’s enough of the original in them to make them feel like old friends. I found Mr. Binat much more ineffectual than Mr. Bennet, but everyone else I enjoyed. Even Lady, annoyingly oblivious as she was. Alys was much more of a feminist than Elizabeth Bennet, but I love how her mind worked, and how quick she was to grasp her own mistakes. I highly recommend this!
Soniah Kamal was born in Pakistan, but grew up in England and Saudi Arabia and now lives in the U.S. She is an award-winning author and a creative-writing teacher. Unmarriageable is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.)