The classic plot unfolds, but with rich descriptions of colorful, chiffon anarkalis instead of empire-waist gowns, chai and samosas instead of tea and scones. Kamal’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is faithful, with scene-by-scene recreations that will inevitably cause the reader to picture Austen’s original at the same time. Mrs. Binat beautifies her daughters with chickpea masks; Mari bores her sisters with Islamic preachings. That juxtaposition along with plenty of metareferential allusions are what makes this version so much fun. Even the most devoted Austenites will be surprised with how much they judge Darsee as arrogant in the beginning of the novel yet suddenly adore him in the end. This love letter to Austen reexamines sisterhood, society, and marriage in Pakistani culture and includes a fleshed-out epilogue that will satisfy today’s readers.
Soniah Kamal's new novel, Unmarriageable, is billed as 'Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan' and it is that, certainly ... In general, the plot of the novel is pretty much the same as Austen's, with the addition of Pakistani traditions and the bells and whistles of the new millennium, so you know what's going to happen. In this way, Unmarriagable seems at first glance like a par-for-the-course retelling, and for readers simply looking for a fun twist on the classic English novel ... But if you're tempted to look further, as I was, you'll find a cheeky undercurrent that echoes Austen's novels' ability to work on two levels... Kamal's Unmarriageable succeeds in being both a deliciously readable romantic comedy and a commentary on class in post-colonial, post-partition Pakistan, where the effects of the British Empire still reverberate ... While at times the dialogue is heavy-handed, ultimately Unmarriageable manages to be both a fun, page-turning romp and a thought-provoking look at the class-obsessed strata of Pakistani society.
... delightful ... The plot is no surprise ... But Kamal knows that it’s the journey rather than the destination that keeps Austen fans coming back, and she winds interesting variations on the themes to provide a tour of her native country and update some of the anachronistic elements of the original story.
Author Kamal has given the five Bennett sisters rounded and complex personalities, and she creates likeable and understandable women ... While Soniah Kamal’s narrative is decidedly more spicy than anything Austen could have offered in her time, it is true to Austen’s voice and purpose. What she offers is an insightful and smart look at Pakistani culture and the ways in which women are viewed and how they view themselves. Like Austen, she seeks to shed light on the double standards and limitations that are set upon women by the societies in which they live. It is a witty delight that will leave you wishing for more.
Though her prose lacks Austen’s sardonic bite and subtlety, Kamal paints endearing relationships between [several characters] ... Kamal skewers Pakistani society over their obsessions and hypocrisies much in the same way Austen did hers ... Unmarriageable is light and entertaining.
Soniah Kamal knows how to write sympathetic, beautifully thought-out romances. Unmarriageable, her modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, is a lovely read, but it clings so closely to its Austenian roots, that there is no room for the author to fully put her own stamp on the novel, or to make any narrative deviations from the source material to surprise or intrigue the reader. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you’ve pretty much read this book already ... Unmarriageable is charming in places, has great, memorable female characters, does a beautiful job in grounding itself in the culture and society of modern-day Islamic small-town Pakistan and has some great dialogue – but it also has a number of problems that keep me from rating it more highly ... Unmarriageable frustrated me and delighted me in handfuls of ways.
All these similarities, unfortunately, draw attention to the gap between Austen’s writing and Kamal’s. Kamal can be heavy-footed where Austen was light, plodding where Austen was quicksilver. Kamal’s dialogue sometimes sounds more like something from a doctoral thesis than like something someone might actually say ... highlights issues of colonialism, race, and Pakistani identity. Her insights are pointed and smart. Flaws aside, Kamal’s novel is a charming update to the original. Put your feet up and enjoy it ... Kamal’s version has its flaws, but overall it’s a delicious book, something to sink your teeth into.