Unmarriageable puts the familiar story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in an unfamiliar (to me) setting of Pakistan. This mixture of a familiar story in an unfamiliar culture was both fascinating and frustrating. I loved that through reading Alys and Jena Binat’s story I was learning a new culture, but also frustrating because that culture, even in modern times, doesn’t treat women well. In some cases, worse than the Bennett ladies in 1797 England. My emotions fluctuated from fascination to outrage as each scene was revealed yet kept me reading at the same time- pushing for the finish line because I couldn’t wait for the novel to be finished with the happy ending I fully expected.
As with the Bennett family, the Binat family has fallen on hard times and due to their lack of money their social standing in Pakistan society has fallen. The two elder daughters, Alys and Jena, have an honorable position as teachers in an all girls school, but at the same time are dishonored for having to work and bring in an income for their family. Alys our main protagonist is a modern woman. Outspoken, educated and honest she has visions of living her life without being forced to marry. Her mother, however, just wants to see all of her daughters settled, both for their own good but also to help raise their families social standing. Mrs. Binat was a termagant raised in an era where the quality of your marriage defined your life, she harangued, nagged, and spoke down to her daughters so much that it was hard to see the love behind her words and actions.
Unmarriageble mirrored Pride and Prejudice so much that it took away some of the pleasure of reading the novel. The only good distraction was the setting of Pakistan. An area of the world that I am completely unfamiliar with except in news stories or rare visits to a local restaurant or international grocery store. I really enjoyed reading about the clothing, food, and culture of courtship and marriage, even if I disagreed with the ages of the bride and groom in some instances. Knowing arranged marriages still take place in some cultures is one thing, but this novel made that so much more real.
As far as the actual story, I could obviously identify with the more modern Alys and rooted for her love story with Darsee. I would have liked a little more creative license taken with the storyline but Pride and Prejudice is popular for a reason. Alys does finally see Darsee for the grumpy ‘prince’ that he is and falls in love regardless of her misinterpretations of everything he does throughout the novel. The shenanigans of the rest of the Binat girls added more color, but also gave a great sense of the struggles women in Pakistani culture have balancing the modern with tradition.
The setting, food, and colorful scenery balanced out my frustrations with those original plot similarities leaving me with only a slight sense of dissatisfaction. Did I love the novel? Not really. I enjoyed reading about a different culture and I was left with empathy for the struggles women are going through but in the end it was that lack of adding a newness to an already re-told (a million times) plot that left me in that gray area of it wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. For this reason, I am giving Unmarriageable a 3.5 rating. ❤️❤️❤️❣️
I was given a free ARC of this novel through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
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