Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

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?

Have you read Ayesha, At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin? Which of the many Pride and prejudice retellings do you think is the best? Let's talk. Click To Tweet

About the book

Cover Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

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

The plot

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.

Bottom line

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.

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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.

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

Unmarriageable – A book review

I know retellings are all the rage recently. It looks like I am late to catch up, like every other trend out there. Retelling, a relatively new genre, refer to a new version of a familiar classic maybe in a modernized set up or imagined from a different point of view. After a lot of persuasion (wink.. wink..), I picked Unmarriageable, a new version of Pride and Prejudice.

After a lot of persuasion (wink.. wink..), I picked Unmarriageable, a new version of Pride and Prejudice. Read on to know how that worked for me. Click To Tweet

About the book

Unmarriageable

Book Name: Unmarriageable

Author: Soniah Kamal

Genre: Fiction – Romance, Retelling

Characters: Jena, Alysba, Mari, Qitty, Lady, Mrs. Pinkie, Mr Barak (The Binats), Valentino Darsee, Bungles Bingla, Jujeen Darsee, Sherry Looclas, Fahad Kaleen

Setting: Pakistan

The plot

Unmarriageable, set in Pakistani background, follows the Pride and Prejudice to the T revolving around the five daughters of Mr and Mrs Binat. Their elder daughters Jena and Alysba work in a school nearby and meet their counterparts “Bungles” Bingla and Valentino Darsee in a wedding.

While Jena and Bungles like each other right from the start, Darsee looks down upon the Binats, thanks to the actions of their dramatic sister and materialistic mother. Alys finds Darsee to be haughty and vain, and she befriends Jeorgeulla Wickaam, Darsee’s cousin who further tarnishes his image.

Soon the Binat family hates him and when Bungles leaves the town without proposing to Jena, they assume it was Darsee’s doing. Do they end up together forms the rest of Unmarriageable.

My initial thoughts

I picked Unmarriageable because I missed Jane Austen and wanted to get into her world, and Unmarriageable did exactly that. I could see the Austen’s characters in Soniah Kamal’s and it stayed true to the original. The sub plots of Kaleen and Sherry (Colleen – Charlotte) and the way they had been adapted to the modern Pakistan fit perfectly.

While I understand it is a retelling, I wish the author had explored the characters deeper. Lady’s character was a cliche and I felt there was more scope for development, given the period it is set in.

I couldn’t avoid feeling it was weird that the characters discuss so much about Austen and even a character talks about Alys being similar to Lizzie, but they didn’t figure out they were literally acting like them. A glaring plot hole maybe?

Things that worked for me

  • Unmarriageable stayed true to the original Pride and Prejudice, in terms of social commentary and the plot. 
  • I loved many of the desi version of the characters like Sherry and Kaleen.
  • There are parts where the author shines, especially where she had changed Austen’s text to suit her narration. 

Things that didn’t work for me

  • Maybe, Unmarriageable was too close the original and I found it unimaginative at places.
  • There were places that the prose to be dragging. 
  • I didn’t find the charm of the Lizzie Bennet in Alysba, but that might be a personal bias.

Bottom-line

While there are lot of things that I wish were better with Unmarriageable, but as a retelling the author succeeds in making me fell nostalgic about Pride and Prejudice. I am still on the lookout for a better retelling of Pride and Prejudice. If you know any, let me know.

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Unmarriageable

Let us chat

Have you read this one? Do you like reading retellings? If so, what is favorite retelling book? Let us chat.