I was excited when I found Unmarriageable at my town library. Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are one of my favorite tropes, and Soniah Kamal’s offering was already on my radar.
But then real life interfered, and even after renewing the book, I wasn’t able to read it before the due date. Not returning the book wasn’t an option because I didn’t want to rack up library fines- nor did I want to hoard the book and keep other people from reading it.
So I bought the Kindle edition- and I added the Audible edition as well.
In Unmarriageable, Kamal brings Pride and Prejudice to Pakistan at the turn of the 21st century. Alys Binat lives with her family in Dilipabad, a small town in Pakistan. She and her older sister Jena teach English at the British School, and their three younger sisters are still students at the school. While Mrs. Binat has Big Plans for all five of her daughters, Alys is perfectly content with her life, and does not intend to get married just for the sake of getting married.
As the story begins, Alys asks her students to complete the first line from Pride and Prejudice- “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” and the girls’ answers provide a Western readers with insight into the mindset of upper middle class Pakistani girls.
I don’t think I need to rehash the plot; readers are most likely familiar with the source material. In short, Alys and her family go to a wedding, where they meet Bungles Bingla and Valentine Darsee. Bungles is enchanted by Jena, Darsee acts like a snob, Mrs. Binat and Lady Binat come off as gauche, etc.
The most interesting thing is how flawlessly a book set Regency England translates to modern Pakistan. Granted, I am not particularly familiar with Pakistani culture, and I’m sure that there is some degree of exaggeration, but nothing felt particularly forced or out of place.
I would absolutely recommend Unmarriageable. As I mentioned, I purchased the Audible edition at the same time as the Kindle book, and I decided that listening to the book would be quicker than reading it. I’ll admit that I was not paying close attention when I made the purchase; I didn’t see who the narrator was, but I found her presentation to be extremely engaging and delightfully wry. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Kamal narrated the book herself. I’m looking forward to reading more from Kamal in the future!