You all know how exciting it is for me to read a Pride and Prejudice retelling. Especially since I heard it was about Indians Muslims settled in Canada, I had wanted to check this one. So can we talk about Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin?
About the book
Book Name: Ayesha At Last
Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
Genre: Fiction – Romance
Characters: Ayesha and Idris Shamsi, Khalid and Zareena Mirza, Farzana, Hafsa, Sheila, Clara,
Setting: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Ayesha Shamsi, a 27 year old aspiring poet, is on her first year as a substitute teacher in an attempt to pay off her family’s debt. Her extended family and the aunty brigade never stop reminding of her age and the fact that she doesn’t have a stream of ‘rishtas’ (marriage proposals) coming her way.
Neither Ayesha nor her mom are worried about her getting married right away but she is annoyed that her cousin Hafsa, whom Ayesha is overprotective about, is taking it too lightly. Hafsa enjoys getting marriage proposals and promises that she would not choose until she gets a hundred of them.
Khalid Mirza is conservative and quick to judgement, especially when it comes to fellow Muslims who are not as religious as he is. When a colleague introduce Ayesha to him in a bar, he quickly dismisses her.
What trouble befalls Hafsa and thus Ayesha when Khalid’s mother proposes the marriage between Hafsa and Khalid? Who ends up with whom form the rest of Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.
My initial thoughts
Ayesha At Last is a modern day Pride and Prejudice with a bit of gender swap. It’s Khalid’s mother who acts like Mrs Bennett and all up in his business. I can relate some of the characters to the original but on the whole, you may not even realize it is a retelling (if you hadn’t known earlier).
I loved how South Asians and Muslims were not just a backdrop for the story, but their beliefs and customs were an integral part of Ayesha At Last. This is exactly why #OwnVoices matter. I was able to relate to their talks, language and family bonding well, as an Indian myself.
SPOILER While I love a good makeover, I don’t think Khalid should have had to change his appearance to appease the Islamophobics at his workplace and Ayesha. If we hate a woman changing herself to fit the society’s norms, shouldn’t we do the same for the guy?
What worked for me
- I really liked that the characters were truly south Asian Muslim and not just a backdrop.
- And kudos to the writer on keeping the narrative flow interesting without turning the explanations about the practices of the Muslims preachy or into a lesson.
- I loved the author’s take on the different types of Islam followers and not harshly judging any of them (while her characters were having a hoot doing just that).
What may have been better
- I wish Khalid didn’t have to change his appearance or behavior to fit into the western mold of normalcy.
- Since there were many characters, we didn’t get the chance to delve into any other characters deeply. I am sure I would have loved to know more Amir or even Ayesha’s mother.
If you are craving for a good Muslim representation in a romance book, then Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is a good choice. If you are a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, you might be left wanting a bit more with Ayesha At Last, but still worth a read.
Let us chat
Have you read Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin? Which of the many Pride and prejudice retellings do you think is the best? Leave your suggestions right below. Let’s talk.
Last year I read the Handmaid’s Tale, another one of Atwood’s masterpieces and it ended up being one of the best books I have ever read. So when I saw that Netflix is adapting another of her tales, I promised myself that I will read the book before I watch it, as any sensible bookworm would do.
Unfortunately it took me a while to get to it because let us face it, Atwoods aren’t the easiest read, especially considering that these are and I had easier books to read. So finally when I actually got to read it, was it worth it all? Read on by Book review of Alias Grace!
About Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Book Name: Alias Grace
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Fiction – Thriller, Literary, True Crime
Characters: Grace Marks, Dr Simon Jordon, James McDermott, Mary Whitney
Setting: Ontario, Canada, Ireland, the UK
Plot Summary of Alias Grace
Grace Marks has been imprisoned since she was 16 years old for the murders of Mr Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery along with the fellow servant James McDermott, who was hanged. A select group of gentlemen and ladies who are convinced that Grace is innocent try to acquit even after an almost a decade has passed since her imprisonment.
They request Dr Simon Jordon, a doctor of the mind, to interview her and build a report to support their cause. Dr Jordon is fascinated by Grace and is more interested in understanding the levels of her sanity than worry if she is guilty. Thus Grace starts recounting her tale from her impoverished childhood in the Northern Ireland to her incarceration.
Born in a family that had too many mouths to feed, Grace was the one to look after her surviving siblings. They sail to Canada when their father becomes a person of suspicion in a local arson and a related murder. Her mother passes away during the journey and their father’s ways soon make her the only working member of the family.
Grace joins Mrs Parkinson’s household as a help where she meets Mary Whitney, who becomes her trusted friend. Mary’s death in ‘abrupt circumstances’ causes Grace to search work in other places and finally she ends up at the Richmond Hall. Within a few weeks, her life is turned upside down and she is sent to the asylum and later the penitentiary on being convicted for the murders.
Dr Jordon is baffled without being able to tell whether Grace is as innocent as she tells him or he is being played. He also struggles through his own battles trying to ward off his desire for his landlady and his mother’s pressure to settle down soon.
How far will he go to find the truth, especially when the truth is too close to home and he is facing the same dilemma himself? How does his scientific mind fare against her faith laden beliefs? Is he a worthy opponent for Grace at all? You will have to read Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood yourself.
Book review of Alias Grace
Atwood’s writing is as expected hard to get into but once you do that, time will fly while you read through those 450+ pages. Much like the Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace speaks much about the gender and the class discrimination. I was hooked to reading about symbolism on the quilt pattern that I had to Google more about them.
I loved the story of Dr Jordon interwove with that of Grace’s personal story without pacing it down. His relationship with the landlady, how he succumbed to it after much resistance and then his dreams about him murdering the estranged landlord showed how much common he had with Grace than he realized.
Alias Grace is dark and melancholic and yet Atwood’s fictionalized version remained true to the facts, as per her afterword where she discusses the known facts of the case. My stance on whether Grace was guilty, or not, changed every time a new part of the puzzle was revealed
Only a seasoned writer can have that ability to make the reader do that even when they know how it was gonna end (thanks to the reviews I had read earlier).
Bottom – line
I can’t now wait to see the Netflix adaptation of the Alias Grace and hopefully I will feel as great as I do after reading the book. If you like true fiction and/or the Handmaid’s Tale you need to read this without fail. I loved it.
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Let us talk
Have you read Alias Grace or any of Atwood’s other books? Do you like the book to TV/movie adaptations and have any of them lived up to the book? Let us chat.