Recommended Read, Review

Review: Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (2019)

Heat Factor: The heat comes from the witty dialogue, not hanky panky

Character Chemistry: I mean, it’s Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth—only in Pakistan, and just as satisfying.

Plot: It’s a classic P&P, folks—only the new setting and fresh take by the author make it an absolutely riveting read.

Overall: I feel that if I were Jane Austen and read this retelling, I would feel very seen. It simply rocks.

I’m usually pretty hesitant to try retellings—in my experience they’re really hit or miss and seem really difficult to pull off. If they’re fresh and fun, sometimes they miss the mark on the original, and if they’re carefully lined up with their inspiration, sometimes they’re a little stale. In this case, I was absolutely floored by how absolutely fantastic this retelling of Pride and Prejudice was. 

Alys is Elizabeth, a teacher at the best school available in Dilapabad in Pakistan. She’s unapologetically feminist, and has no interest in chasing marriage like her mother (and society in general) expects her to. When a debutante in their town gets married, they meet Darsee and Bungles (Darcy and Bingley), and the whole escapade gets started.

I was flabbergasted by how the author captures Pride and Prejudice without sacrificing an ounce of Pakistani culture. It’s absolutely perfect—the values and views on womanhood match up perfectly, and the lush demonstration of wealth and status feels just like an echo of the drawing rooms of England. The time period the author works with allows for some modern shifts that cause some delicious tension and allow for some really engaging dialogue about choice and marriage and free will. It’s not just a good retelling; it’s interesting, engaging, and well thought out. Actually, as Alys points out in the book, a lot of these dynamics and experiences translate to us all, in any culture. It’s just done SO well in this case.

Much like in the original, Darsee is almost an idea for a good chunk of the book. Alys is a fully unwrapped and fascinating individual, pushing boundaries, loyal, and rational to a fault. That they’re going to have a genuine romance is back burner to the rocky romances going on in the periphery. 

There are so many scenes that stand out—Alys comforting her distraught mother when it seems their last chance at happy marriages has slipped through their fingers, Darsee’s quiet admiration of Alys. When Jena realizes that some people aren’t worth her quiet loyalty.

The descriptions are so vivid, too. I have a huge weakness for books that make me hungry, and this was no exception. I feel like in romances, especially, descriptions of food almost add another layer of intimacy; across cultures, dining together is a way of connection and connection is a stepping stone to intimacy. So anyway, this book was peppered with scenes of dining—tense meals, lavish meals, meals of comfort. My new theory is that romance novels with good food descriptions tend to have better descriptions of other things…but I’ll unpack that later.

If you’re looking for a bodice-ripping, swoon worthy romance, this isn’t it. It’s subtle and slow, and it’s nice and long. But if you have the time to settle in for a beautiful story with inspiring characters, this is the one for you.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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