Unmarriageable

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

It is a truth universally acknowledged that authors just can't resist the urge to update the story of Pride and Prejudice. With zombies, with added chardonnay, moved to modern day Cincinnati - there are plenty to choose from and quite a few transfer the story to either a South Asian setting or community. I've read a lot of these retellings but I think Kamal's is the best I've read so far. The connections with the original - names, relationships and so on - are kept but given a twist which is both contemporary (30 is a far more likely age for a modern Muslim girl to worry about being left on the shelf than 21) and in keeping with the culture of Pakistan (huge weddings, for example). In fact, although this is a thoroughly modern update I was reminded of how many things we think of as being typical of South Asian cultures - like arranged marriages and the importance of a young woman's virtue - are pure Austen.

The Binat family has five daughters and we follow the lives of Alys and Jena in particular. They teach English at a girl's school in a small Pakistani city - they teach the literature of Empire to girls who will, in many cases, never finish their education because they prefer to marry to cement their place in society - and are estranged from the wealthy side of their family. This allow us to see, even from the start of the book, that Kamal, like Austen before her, not only understands the world she lives in but understands the necessity of pointing out its faults and hypocrisies. Like the original we see all the main characters develop, show their good and bad sides and then either overcome them (Alys, Darsee, Mr Binat, for example) or totally live up to them (Wickaam and Lady) but some of the more minor ones are, in my opinion, made even stronger than they were in the original. The Lady Catherine equivilent is equally vile but the Anne de Bourgh one is given much more to do and I loved Sherry (the Asian Charlotte Lucas) - even more than I did the original.

All in all this is one of the best retellings of any classic novel I've ever read. My only niggle would be that why didn't characters who all knew and loved Pride and Prejudice see how close their own names were to the Austen originals?
Was this review helpful?
Unmarriageable: Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan is just what the title describes. This modern retelling of Jane Austen’s much-loved classic, set in Pakistan in the early 2000s, is just as absorbing and witty as the original. The novel is self-referencing in that characters share very similar names with their Austen counterparts and they even briefly discuss Austen’s book and characters.

I loved this retelling. It’s been quite some time since I’ve read Austen’s book, but it seemed that this new version hits very many of the same beats as the original. Even knowing what would happen to the characters I was still engrossed in the story. Characters are in similar social situations, in a culture which shares similar aspects to Regency England, including attitudes to women and marriage. This was the first novel I’d read set in Pakistan and I found it very interesting with the descriptions of money-obsessed, upper-class Pakistan with their own cultural traditions mixed with influences from western culture. 

The characters are wonderfully depicted with their flaws and quirks, hopes and dreams. I really liked the friendship between Alys and Sherry and the bickering between the Binat sisters and there are some wonderfully funny retorts.   

This is a fresh, vibrant retelling of a classic story with brilliantly realised characters. I think that Austen fans will enjoy this novel and I also recommend it to anyone who enjoys interesting characters, family drama, and down-to-earth romance.

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this title.
Was this review helpful?
Alys Binat comes from a wealthy, well regarded family and for a good portion of her life, they wanted for nothing. But then her father was betrayed by his own brother and now they are practically penniless. Alys and her sister Jena work as teachers at a prestigious girls finishing school. They also have three younger sisters Mari, Qitty and Lady. Mrs Binat longs for her daughters to be married but both Alys and Jena are of an age now where it seems unlikely that they will make excellent matches, especially given there’s no money left for a dowry. Alys is also incredibly adamant that she will not marry as a social contract to better her situation, nor will she stoop to trying to catch a man. She’s a successful independent woman who can earn a wage and pay her way and as she tries to tell her own students, there’s more to life than immediately falling into marriage and babies when you’re still only a teenager.

Despite their misfortune, the Binats are still lucky enough to warrant invitations to important social events and it’s here that lovely Jena catches the eye of a wealthy bachelor, who is amiable and lovely – shame about his snobby friend Valentine Darsee who insults Alys within her hearing and also his two sisters (hilariously named Hammy and Sammy, short for Humeria and Sumeria) who look down their noses at everything. Mrs Binat is so hopeful that her Jena might not only marry finally but marry well.

The book tracks very closely to the original, with all the major players included although some take on a bit of a twist, especially Sherry Looclus, the Charlotte Lucas of this version. She’s in her 40s, willing to sacrifice for any marriage, especially one that will make her financially secure. I felt quite interested in Sherry’s story, because it does appear to be one of the few places where the author does go in a new direction and adjust the story a little to suit a more modern timeframe. The other is what happens to Darsee’s young sister, which remains the same but with more modern consequences.

The social whirl of Pakistan is a huge portion of this book, with extravagant wedding celebrations that last for days and have multiple ceremonies and the food and entertainment portion that go with it. The food is quite lovingly described as are the outfits and jewellery. The struggle of being a family who has had it all and now has little takes its toll on the often overwrought Mrs Binat, who is every bit as frivolous and overbearing as the original. I quite enjoyed the role of Mr Binat and his shameful realisation of how his own inadequacies and inaction has an impact on everything that happens, including allowing the young and silly Lady to go away on holiday against Alys’ wishes and the ruin she almost brings down upon them all. Lady herself is a thoroughly modern day selfish and self-absorbed teenager who cares little how she gets something as long as she ends up getting it. I found myself wanting to slap her more than once. Mari is an overzealous Muslim determined to bring back propriety and burqas and Qitty is beautiful but often maligned about her weight by Lady and even her mother. The way in which Qitty turns this into a positive and embraces her own true self is rather delightful.

For me, there’s a strength in the relationship between Alys and Darsee, which starts off very badly when she overhears him class her as neither attractive not intelligent enough for him. Darsee and Alys butt heads quite often and her reaction when he proposes the first time is so much fun to read. And so are the small moments, such as when he takes his leave abruptly after Alys learns of Lady’s disappearance and you know why he’s doing it, because he blames himself and is sure she will blame him too after all, he knew about Wickhaam and kept it quiet. And Alys thinks he’s departing abruptly because of the scandal that will engulf their family, how it will prove everything he ever said correct. I enjoyed the way they found common ground in literature too. It made me feel as if the two of them would have an actual meaningful relationship with things in common that they could discuss and enjoy, because relationships in 2019 are much different to how they were when Pride & Prejudice was being written and set. Couples were tied together by other things.

I found this to be clever and funny. It sticks to the core storyline quite admirably but isn’t afraid to deviate a bit either where it needs to for the sake of its modern setting or the culture of Pakistan. I loved Alys and her independence, her questioning of her students, her push for them to seek more for themselves and to step outside a box, even though it often meant she was called in and reprimanded. This was familiar but yet different and I thought it was fabulous.

9/10
Was this review helpful?
BOOK REVIEW: 2.5 stars
Unmarriableable by Soniah Kamal

I was looking forward to this book as I thought it would be a great Pakistani adaptation of Pride and Prejudice...but sadly that is not what I got.
Most retellings have a similar theme to the original but their own story and characters. It really surprised me that this book could be published when it is SO like the original. It felt like plagiarism! I'm talking very similar names, the plot is almost identical except being based in Pakistan and the cultural changes that brings. Even some of the quotes are near identical! 
It was a fun, new version for people to read but sadly it doesn't stand up against the original in my opinion and I really don't think retellings should be as similar as this. I also found it lacking is the depth Jane Austen brings.

I received this e-book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This clever and witty Pakistani version of Pride and Prejudice by Soniah Kamal is great fun.

Like Pride and Prejudice, the story involves five sisters in a family down on its luck, but it concentrates on the two oldest sisters, Alys and Jenna. They are modern girls (although Alys is perhaps more modern) stuck in an old-fashioned world in which women are regarded as spinsters if they are single at 30.  They both teach at the BDS, a private school for girls, where Alys tries to convince the girls tthat there is more to life than marriage and children.

Mrs Binat, their mother, is determined to get the girls married, but she won't accept Abroads because their wives are unpaid servants or Absurdities, men from humble backgrounds. When the girls meet Mr Bumgles and his arrogant friend Valentine Darsee, Mrs Binat is overjoyed and thinks that there is a proposal in the offing. The girls have more twists and turns to face before they find true happiness, however. For example, Alys must fight off the attentions of the smarmy Kaleen, and choose between Wickhaam and Darsee.

Pride and Prejudice transfers very well to this exotic setting where good Muslim women are supposed to be virgins until they are married; there are huge wedding feasts; and class distinction and gossip are all-pervasive.  The main characters are very likeable, although some people might not approve of Alys smoking.

I was a bit puzzled when Mrs Binat prayed the rosary, but Muslims have a rosary as well as Catholics.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
As a massive pride and prejudice fan I was excited to read this and I was not disappointed at all. I was delighted. A fun read while learning about Pakistan and such interesting cultural perspectives you wouldn’t get in other retellings. Even though you know the plot it’s still thrilling to read and I put that down to the authors wonderful written no and brilliant characters.  I thoroughly recommend this to fans of Austen and also to any fans of great entertaining reads that will make you smile while learning about different cultures. 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
Was this review helpful?
I generally dread retellings, no matter what kind they are. When it comes to classics and more importantly, when it comes to Pride and Prejudice, I have been very hesitant about picking up the retellings. Simply because I feared that they would not be able to do justice to the original while also adding something of their own. I finally pushed aside the reluctance and requested this one and I am glad to report that I was not disappointed in the least.

Kamal has managed something amazing with this one. She’s managed to bring the very beloved part of the classic to us while making sure to add genuine Pakistani flavour to it. Her characters feel and read like the characters from P & P but manage to stand on their own due to the author’s really great effort in adding the reality of the Pakistani traditions and norms.

There are many things that perhaps veered from the original and made this one stand on its own two feet. The additions and differences makes this book so much better because it has modern problems that comes with centuries old worries and that’s a blend anyone from Indian/Pakistani family will be able to relate to. It’s not perhaps the perfect book but you know what? I don’t mind it, I loved that it did have tiny flaws and that it did have those original very famous scenes incorporated into the plot.

The similarities are, I think, pretty obvious but even the characters of the Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy are written very well with enough differences from the original that they do seem real enough. Alysba and Valentine are well written on their own and maybe where the book maybe fails is when it tries to introduce romance because that didn’t work out as well as I would have liked it to. Their personalities are so different and perhaps, they could have worked really wonderfully as friends or even becoming close friends but romance felt a bit far-fetched by the end of the book.

Whereas the other characters felt more real and plausible in this day and age. From Charlotte Lucas (Sherry in this one) truly enjoying her marriage to Mr. Collins (Mr. Kaleen) and then there’s the whole Wickham character doing his thing with Georgiana a year previous to the story. The side characters really brought out their best, I think. From Mr. and Mrs. Binat to their drastically different daughters, each with their own set of realities. I really loved reading about a Kitty who’s fairly healthy and perhaps chubby and how she fared in her own household, how Mary becomes so religious that she can’t seem to find normality in human flaws, how Jane is gentle yet quite strong in her own way and how Lydia (Lady) perhaps despite suffering from the same fate has her own set of pros. It’s absolutely a delightful read over all.

I think what Kamal really succeeded in doing was bringing the old charm of P & P and mixing it with modern Pakistani life, from Alysba’s age of 30 (good god, who is going to marry her?!) to discussing women’s agency in this day and life to the serious topic of abortion. From Pakistani culture (which frankly sounded too much like Indian culture and scared me at times) to the amazing food descriptions, from Jane Austen’s amazing works to the author’s own contribution to this particular novel about humanity, this book really managed to capture my attention to the point where I devoured it in few days.

Anyone who’s ever loved Pride and Prejudice and anyone’s who’s ever wanted a good taste of Desi version of it (we are not going to talk about Gurinder Chadha’s version of it, let’s all collectively forget about it, okay?) then this is the book for you. It might have a few tiny problems when it comes to certain points but overall, it’s an absolute joy to read it and relate to it in such a direct way because if you are desi like me then trust me, you are gonna be meeting some real people in these characters.
Was this review helpful?
This was such a fun read with some biting social commentary all wrapped up in an Austen bun! It tells the story of Alys Binat, a 31 year old English Literature teacher, happily single but constantly under pressure from her mother to 'grab' a husband. It took me a little while to really get into the narrative for a couple of reasons: the first couple of chapters felt very exposition heavy and it was really difficult to get a sense of Alys's character, which was a shame. However, with the introduction of Pinkie Binat, her mother, the narrative just exploded with fun. Pinkie was pitch perfect, being very annoying and frustrating, but incredibly loving underneath it all and I found her depiction really funny. Similarly, Sherry Looclus was a welcome side character, adding nuance to the narrative. There was a real vein of fat shaming throughout, which left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Despite being relevant to the plot, it just felt like a bit of an easy pot shot sometimes at humour. Nevertheless, the plot is paced well and the writing is funny, with snappy dialogue and great descriptions. Overall, I thought this was a really good update of Pride and Prejudice and thought that the systemic obsession with marriage for women was incredibly well lampooned and satirised in the book.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
An amazing and well written book that is perfect for any Austen fan and whoever wants to know something more about the culture of Pakistan.
It's well written, engrossing and entertaining.
I loved how the characters well developed and how well the writer adapted Pride&Prejudice to another culture.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Was this review helpful?
"Unmarriageable" is a modern-day retelling of "Pride and Prejudice" set in Pakistan and overall I liked the story.

I found it a little weird, that the characters had all read "Pride and Prejudice" and still weren't freaked out by all their acquaitances having names straight from the book and living the same story they have read. 

Thank you to Netgalley, Allison & Busby and Soniah Kamal for an eARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Interesting, but gets bogged down in the details very quickly. It was one of the things that I struggled with in Austen's novel and this re-telling gets right into it word for word. A great idea, though, with some compelling parts.
Was this review helpful?
I voluntarily read and reviewed am ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for letting me read this book. 
It actually took me a while to get into it. All of the names (despite being similar) and functions the girls attended were slightly confusing. Maybe if Alys wasn't so well versed in Pride and Prejudice she could be oblivious to the similarities of the situations, however it was frustrating when she didn't pick up on it all. 
Culturally it was a lot of fun, and it was lovely to hear about the clothes and food.
Was this review helpful?
One for Austen fans!
I am not going to elaborate on the plot as I think many readers of this retelling will already be familiar with the story of Pride and Prejudice, probably Jane Austen's most famous novel and arguably one of the most popular books in the English language, but this is a truly enjoyable version of the story. Set in a fictional town in Pakistan, it tells the story of a family of unmarried Muslim women, ranging from teenage Lady (Lydia) to schoolteacher Jen (Jane). and their mother who is desperate to see them married off. This version sticks very closely to the original, down to the naming of the characters, which I thought was a little forced and unnecessary e.g. Jeorgeulla Wickaam . I did enjoy the changes the author made , such as making Alys (Elizabeth) and Jena older, in their thirties and developing the character  of Sherry Looclas (Charlotte Lucas) more in order to explain her marriage later in the book.  The setting in Pakistan was really well described, I could almost smell and taste the delicious foods so often described throughout the book, and the descriptions of clothes made for a colourful read. Alys is a more forceful and strong willed character than her inspiration and I appreciated these changes and how the author was able to use her to illustrate the difficulties still faced by young women today. I also loved that the humour of the original is still present , and has even been expanded upon at times. I think the author shows a lot of promise and I wish that she had been able to step away from the original book just a little more, but overall I would not hesitate to recommend this book to any Austen fan, or any reader who enjoys a good book with great characters and an exotic setting. 
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Mrs Binat has the tough job of trying to get her five daughters married whilst fighting reduced circumstances. The worse thing is her two eldest have ridiculous “standards” and refuse to consider “grabbing” a suitable husband. When her 2nd eldest, Alys, instantly falls in hate with eligible bachelor, Valentine Darsee, at the years most talked about marriage celebration, she consoles herself with the fact that Jena is definitely going to get engaged to his friend Bungles. 

I found it a bit heavy going at first with the large number of exotic names that slowly evolved into Jane Austin’s famous characters and like the original novel, things picked up about half way rewarding my persistence. Enjoyable and colourful. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own
Was this review helpful?
"Unmarriageable" is a modern-day retelling of "Pride and Prejudice" set in Pakistan and overall I liked how the author modernized the story, but there were several things that I rather disliked.

For one, it was a little weird, that the characters had all read "Pride and Prejudice" and still weren't weirded out by all their acquaitances having names straight from the book and living the same story they have read. It just seemed strange and bothered me throughout the novel.

Also, the ending of the novel didn't really feel realistic to me, especially since the minor characters, such as the younger Binat sisters all got a sudden burst of character development that just didn't feel earned.

Still, this is one of the best retellings I have read in recent years.
Was this review helpful?
A really enjoyable read which I will recommend to any Austen fans as it is such a fantastic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice!
Was this review helpful?
A terrific read a book that gives us a glimpse into Pakistani culture a look. at romance culture so well written so entertaining.I will be looking forward to more books from this author,
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this book! Such a beautiful insight to the Pakistani culture with a western twist! I couldn’t put this down once I started reading it, it was absolutely amazing! Never heard of this author before but will now definitely keep a look out for her books!
Was this review helpful?
An interesting retelling of pride and prejudice. Even though you know what is going to happen to each character it is fun to work out who is who and I liked the twists added.
Was this review helpful?
Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriagemable has a lot to live up to. In an age when we have seen (and continue to see) numerous adaptations of Jane Austen’s much-love classic Pride and Prejudice, two questions come to mind. First, what is the motivation behind re-telling this superb story? And second, what makes this stand apart from the others?
The book transports the Bennet family and life to the Sindh province circa-2001. Elizabeth Bennet is now Alysba or Alys Binat. Her sisters and all other characters have names which have been similarly adapted to the English/Urdu-speaking context that they live in. This works quite well. For example, Charlotte Collins nee Lucas’ transformation into Shireen Kaleen (nee Looclus). However, at times, the names can seem forced such as Fitzwilliam Darcy’s reincarnation as Valentine Darsee. 
Unmarriageable is generally faithful to its original inspiration. From Bingla’s (Bingley) two overbearing sisters to Mrs. Binat’s (Bennet) overwhelming anxiety and obsession with arranging her daughters’ marriages, the main story is retold in an engaging manner. The Pakistani setting adds flair and colour to the story and characters rendering it relevant and amusing to an audience familiar with Austen’s take on marriage, love and society in 18th century England. That the story translates so well into Kamal’s chosen setting is a testament to how relatable Pride and Prejudice is across time, space and location. 
There are flashes of insight in this retelling which I had not seen in other adaptations. For example, Alys’ realisation and shame that she has been enabling her father’s dismissive and inappropriate behaviour towards his wife exposes a more reflective side to this Lizzie. Similarly, Kamal mentions in the afterword that Charlotte Lucas is her favourite character, and this is apparent throughout. Shireen Looclus is portrayed with more nuance, attention and sympathy leading to a greater impact on Alys’ character development. Her feelings towards Shireen’s marriage are more thought through and the emotional conflict between losing her best friend (and anticipated partner in singledom) and her disbelief that a friend of hers would choose to compromise so much to marry are conveyed with clarity and understanding. 
The inclusion of more detail around the Binat’s reduced circumstances, family feud and the story of how Uncle and Aunt Gardenaar met, are welcome additions to the story. They provide a more wholesome picture of the Binats’ circumstances and their attitudes towards religion, family and love. Sometimes the book seemed too ambitious in introducing more material in which detracted from the overall effect. The Binat parents’ meeting, love story and marriage are described in full but the level of adoration and happiness between them doesn’t then match Mr. Binat’s attitude towards his wife. Sure, poverty and the pressure of having 5 daughters to support could explain some of his behaviour but there needed to be more of a journey towards this change expressed in the narrative to make it more convincing. The same can be said of Jena’s (Jane) romantic adventures. As an educated, beautiful woman in her 30s, the level of insecurity and reluctance to communicate with her potential suitor seem disjointed. Perhaps this is because they are overemphasised in the story, but it seems hard to believe that she would be incapable of communicating with Bingla or Bungles to the degree stated. 
On a more linguistic note, the book seeks to portray the Pakistani context through the inclusion of Urdu words and phrases throughout. This is commendable but having the English translation in the main body straight after was jarring and detracted from the flow of the text. Whilst it is obvious that the book has been structured in this way to appeal to a non-Urdu speaking audience, the approach taken felt artificial and for some reason just didn’t quite work for me. Being familiar with contemporary novellists like Anuja Chauhan who manage the inclusion of ‘Hinglish’ dialogues extremely effectively perhaps affected my view of this. 
Overall Unmarriageable is an enjoyable and diverting read. Providing another spin on an old, and well-loved classic is very ambitious and at times it worked really well. My favourite part has to be the opening chapter wherein Alys has her students analyse and rewrite the infamous opening line of the original: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ The proferred alternatives along with the class discussion between Alys and her students are fun and provide much food for thought.
The final point worth mentioning is that the book does well to bring in contemporary debates around local literature. From Alys’ assertion that students should also read Pakistani works, to Shireen’s translations of Urdu novels into English which leads to their future joint career venture. It is important to raise awareness of these issues. Finally, the way that Alys and Darsee bond over the Pakistani novel Sunlight Over a Broken Column. One thing I have taken away from this book is the desire to engage more with these works. Since reading Unmarriageable I have ordered Sunlight Over a Broken Column and look forward to reading it. Above all, I think Soniah Kamal deserves credit for prompting readers to explore Pakistani literature in more depth.
Was this review helpful?