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,
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.